BIOL 415 Nerve Cell Mechanisms in Behavior
BIOL 615 Neural Bases of Behavior
Prof. Stark
Spring, 2013 Assessment Report

Form items in plain text; Student comments, statements, future plans in italics
My interpretation of the history of assessment
"Assessment" in Missouri spread after the mid 1980's "Value Added" program of Northeast Missouri State. It was originally intended "to reliably evaluate the quality of educational training." In April, 1998, SLU's  Biology Department adopted a policy of having graduating majors take the Graduate Record Exam, interpreting "assessment" as "program assessment." On September 21, 2000, "each faculty member" was charged to "develop an outcome assessment tool." At this time, the interpretation was one of "student outcomes assessment." In December 2002, "course assessment" replaced "student outcomes assessment;" faculty were directed to collect information used to change or improve the course in keeping with SLU's policy ("Assessment results are utilized to improve courses and curriculum"). There is a link to the assessment reports I have prepared since assessment was mandated at SLU:
Here are the stated objectives of the course:
For students contemplating or beginning graduate study in neuroscience, this course should orient them. For students going to medical school, this course should offer them the opportunity to take better advantage of several courses in their academic years. For graduate students already engaged in neuroscience research, as well as graduate and undergraduate students in other areas, this course should present a comprehensive survey of the entire field of neuroscience.
"The course fulfilled these objectives, and these objectives were reasonable."
1. strongly agree   2. agree   3. disagree  4. strongly disagree

After taking physiological psychology 313, I believe that this course was an excellent follow-up as it better oriented me with the material that was introduced in psych 313. I especially appreciated the way the material was distributed between exams as each section had a conceptual theme. One aspect that I like is that many disorders and disease are introduced to help explain why a certain mechanism is not functioning. The material on the disorders is not only fascinating, but relevant to my interests!

Dr. Stark, I think you did a great job in bringing exciting course material for students to learn about. The objectives were met, and I learned a lot from this course (even though I still have a third of the course left).

I felt like a learned a lot of very useful information and definitely have a more solid foundation for medical school in the fall.

this course did present a comprehensive survey of the entire field of neuroscience and helped me integrate and build on what I had learned in previous Psychology and Biology classes.

Although there was a lot of information, it was all very relevant to the study of neuroscience and the expectations were reasonable.

Dr. Stark ensures you know what is required of you when entering the class, they are challenging, but reasonable. 

I feel that the objectives of the course were clearly communicated, available and reasonable

The course helped me obtain a better grasp on the field of Neuroscience.

I think it gave a good overview of the entire system

It was quite straight forward

The website does a great job explaining these things. 

"The selection of topics for emphasis and the level and coverage in the textbook were reasonable."
1. strongly agree   2. agree  3. disagree  4. strongly disagree

The lecture and book were very cohesive and adequately covered information without getting too detailed.

Love the topics that were encouraged! Found lectures far more useful than the textbook.

The topics covered in class were very interesting and the lectures built upon the material presented in the textbook.

As a sophomore taking this class, the material was difficult and required a lot of time and patience in order to digest. Yet, I was able to learn a sufficient amount of material in order to do relatively well in the class. I feel like this is mostly due to Dr. Stark's clear and detailed lectures, as well as the plethora of online study resources available.

Dr. Stark gives substantial information with each topic to ensure there are plenty of resources. 

book supplemented the material taught in class well

Given that the course topic, it can contain hoards of information, I appreciate that during lecture you try to break up the dense material. However in doing so, sometimes I feel like the pathways for certain functions can sometimes be rushed through in class. Overall though with the textbook and lecture, I believe the topics are very reasonably covered.

I agree but I would have enjoyed more emphasis on neurological diseases.  
I would almost make this a two semester course so that topics can be covered more in-depth. 

I wish the book was a little better, in explaining details

I did not use the textbook to study for the course

"Outlines, pdf's, PodCasts, and previous test questions on the web were important resources."
1. strongly agree   2. agree  3. disagree  4. strongly disagree

This was incredibly helpful.  Dr. Stark clearly put in a lot of time and effort for his class, which not a lot of professors are willing to do.

do well in this course, each of this is a vital resource which should be used to its full potential.  If you don't like slides, there are outlines, and if you want to listen to a lecture again, it's all online.  Also, you can learn from previous tests as well.  More resources in this course than I have had for any other course taken at SLU hands down.  

The website was easily the best part of the class.  It allowed for me to review notes and listen to lectures easily.  The outlines and pdf's were excellent study resources and allowed for a much easier time outlining and understanding information.

These resources were invaluable in learning the material and test prep. They are thorough and cover all the needed information for the course.

YES!! Without them, I definitely wouldn't have learned as much.

-The old tests were extremely helpful, especially on the first test to help me get a feel for how thoroughly and detailed the material would be tested.

Attending lectures with a copy of the pdfs I believe really help because during lecture you follow through the pdfs in a methodological manner. Previous test questions and outlines are integral to doing well on the exam, and I appreciate that you provide us with some much material to review. However, between the pdf's, outlines, and previous test questions I get a little intimidated when reviewing the information because there is so much content.

The additional resources helped me better understand the material presented in the book and in class.

I especially made use of  old test questions when preparing for the exams.
Your previous test questions were extremely helpful!

They were extremely helpful and supercritical to passing this class.

All the supplemental information was helpful

These were the only study tools I used to study for the exam

A definite help when sick and want to catch up with the class

They were very important

Some of the pdf slides may not have correlated, but for the most part they were helpful. The other resources were very helpful, especially previous test questions!

Make a statement about the relevance of SLU's 5 dimensions to this course and its assessment

(some students addressed all 5 in one comment)

The course met each of the 5 values.

BIOL 415 definitely increased my knowledge, and I really loved the Neuroanatomy portion. As a Neuroscience major, often, I came across all of these various terms, but I never knew where exactly it was located. My intellectual inquiry and communication increased since I talked through this course with my fellow peers. I built a community with my peers as well. However, my leadership, service, and spirituality has not changed from taking this course.

I really appreciated how there were examples of neuroscience research imbedded within the lectures. I think it shows good examples of leadership and help encourages students to do graduate research in neuroscience. I wish that SLU had more neuroscience faculty and research opportunities. A summer program in research with neuroscience would be sweet. I have an interest in neoplasia  in the brain and cancer, but there simply are not the resources here to do research like that.  I think the class made me excited to do more neuroscience in the future.

This course helps students develop in scholarship and knowledge, as well as intellectual inquiry and communication.  The class pushes those interested in neurology to make great gains in those two areas.

This course really only fostered the first two dimensions of the five listed above. This course did a tremendously wonderful job of illustrating how research and development directly contributes and informs science.

In regards to SLU's 5 dimensions for course assessment, I believe that this course strives in most of the categories. Being a higher level biology course, I believe that the lecture material is geared toward refining our rudimentary knowledge of mechanisms through inquiry. Also, the format of the exams is a way to communicate our learning from the course. Due to the small size of the class, it has a quaint setting and has a small community feeling. I don't think leadership and service is relevant to the course material.

The first two of SLU's 5 dimensions were relevant to this course.

-The course covers the first two dimensions very well by promoting knowledge of Neuroscience material and intellectual inquiry by challenging us to take our knowledge to the next level and make connections to other things we have learned.

(some students addressed the 5 dimensions individually)

1. Scholarship and Knowledge

This course is the epitome of scholarship,presenting a large amount of information for its students. In order to succeed in this class a large amount of knowledge needs to be learned and retained.

Encouraged upper level learning and was more challenging than the average course I have taken here at SLU, but I feel confident with what I have learned. 

This was easily one of my favorite courses at SLU.  It was interesting and informative and covered a broad range of conceptual topics.  I was very apprehensive about taking this particular course, but I found it solidly rewarding and a very fair assessment of the knowledge provided in class.

The information I gained from this course helped me build my scientific knowledge.

This class provided extensive information about the nervous system, and I think the course truly has improved my knowledge

encouraged upper level learning and pursuing whatever you want to learn 

this class gave me a general overview of many aspects of neuroanatomy and physiology that I had never been exposed to before.

this class has left me with much knowledge about neuroscience.

 I obviously learned a lot on this class so I think this is relevant 

I don't know about scholarship but knowledge comes with this class.

2. Intellectual Inquiry and Communication

To me, no thing peaks the curiosity more than learning about something in class and seeing it put to work everyday.  Nerve Cell mechanics provides an introduction to neuroscience and shows how relevant the subject is to our daily lives.  More so, Dr. Stark encourages his students to investigate the subject on their own time, even going as far as providing the means to do so in the form of, outside campus lectures, software programs, and current research publications.

Listening to experiences from the teacher and questions from other classmates about the topic allowed me to gain a better grasp on the material. 

this class had much communication inside the classroom, especially during the sheep dissection.

Dr. Stark makes the class available and working in groups for the sheep brain dissection encouraged team communication to get it done in 2 days.  

While I may have had to research more about some key words or topics in order to achieve a better understanding of some of the material, I don't see much intellectual inquiry beyond that (if it even counts in the first place).  I'm not sure about the communication portion.

The class has helped me become more interested in neuroscience and I am excited for graduate school

I looked forward to reading both the text and understanding much of the past research presented in class.

the class was fully accessible outside of class very helpful 

There wasn't a lot of communicating in the class since it was a lecture format, but I'm sure Dr. Stark would be willing to talk to students if they needed help 

3. Community Building

Although, this type of class is not typically thought of as related to community building, the lab portion does foster an atmosphere of teamwork and camaraderie. Both skills are essential to efficiently and effectively learning the different anatomical structures of the brain during the lab sessions.

The size of the class was small, so the environment could facilitate communication among students in the same major.

I liked that we worked in groups on the brain dissection. It helped us get to know others in the class better, plus I loved the hands-on learning we got to do. 

the attendance is low but those who do attend build a community and are able to communicate about the information learned in class.

not everyone attended class, but the class was fully accessible via online resources. 

not everyone attends class, but those who do seem to have a better understanding of information leading to the importance of attending lecture within a community.

I don't think there was any community building here, except if one may include the reference to some researchers.

not really relevant

4. Leadership and Service

The class required the students to practice higher level thinking.

Not too much on this within Nerve cell, but he was very interested in what other research his students were doing across campus.

I don't think there was any leadership or service involved here.

our Nerve Cell class did not focus much on this. 

Wasn't much in class/ out of class.

These attributes are not as relevant to the class.

not really relevant

5. Spirituality and Values

The insight into many controversial issues as well as diseases was important to help view science in a good light

Some of the topics involved in neuroscience are controversial, so when faced with one of these issues it is important to evaluate your own morals and values

In my humble opinion, discipline is one of the critically vales to leading a successful life.  Without discipline of studying over an extended period of time and allowing for adequate preparation for exams, the coursework provided by this course is insurmountable.  The material is difficult but not impossible and also requires diligence and patience in order to master..

Study smart, not hard.

Study hard to learn the material is a good value I think. 

To work hard

Definitely not much in the way of spirituality or values.

not really relevant

What changes would you propose for next year?

I think this course is fantastic just the way it is.

The course does not need to be changed.


This course was a wonderful couse where i learned a lot. At times it was confusing about the structure and organization of the class, but overall I enjoyed it. Overall, there are really no changes I would propose to the course.

I would suggest that on the pdf's where the images from the text are included, it would be helpful for us to have the page number for where the picture is in the textbook. Other than that, I do not have any other propositions as I believe this is a well designed course with a multitude of resources that are available for the student.

I feel that this course succeeds in objective.  It provides very dense, very difficult material and Dr. Stark is able to present this material in an interesting and manageable way.  If I were to change anything in the course I would want to have an extra lab session.  I felt rushed as some points because the anatomy of the brain is complex and some structures are difficult to locate.  In my opinion, an extra lab session would allow for a more thorough exploration into the anatomy of the brain. 

For next year, I think the brain dissection could go smoother. I think the interruptions were not constructive and it would be better to describe the process all at once, and then allow time to explore the areas.  Turning off the lights to view the slides inhibited the ability to view our sheep brains to compare

I have no suggestions for changes to make to the course for next year. I really liked the topics that were covered and the brain dissection. Maybe in the brain dissection, give the students a little more time to finish cutting and exploring before moving on to the next topic. It was hard to follow the dissection lecture at times, especially when the lights were off and we could not see our brains. Thanks for everything this year!

For the dissection lab, an example brain dissected on by Dr. Stark may have been helpful.  Even with the dissection guide, some parts were much harder to understand and dissect out.  

Try to turn off the front lights during the sheep brain dissection, but not the entire room.  It was hard to keep up with the lights going on and off the entire time. 

There are two changes I would recommend. The first suggestion would be that during the dissection you could be in the front on the class and we could watch as you do the steps before trying ourselves. That way when we are to do the dissection, I would have a general understanding of where to cut. However, the dissection days are obviously chaotic and difficult to organize. My next suggestion is a bit minor, but I would recommend having test 2 maybe before Easter break. That way students can go home for the holiday and are not cramming at the last minute, which is definitely something I'm guilty of.  

Multiple Choice exams.

In the slides and outlines, include more and clearer definitions of new terms. Sometimes it is assumed that we know what terms and concepts mean, and that is not always the case.

More hands-on activities.

I would make the class be more engaged. during lecture time. Force them to answer questions. Also, I would cover a little bit more about the role of glial cells, and maybe some research on them within the last few years. I almost feel like this should be a year-long course with all the depth we could cover (I know this would be a hard switch). I sure do enjoy the material and this class. I also believe a lab would be helpful.

Current/recent avenues of research being pursued in the neurosciences.

Some of the test questions were mildly incoherent, and were difficult to determine what you were looking for.  Some of the questions were more "guess what I'm thinking" questions, which can be difficult to answer and not the best metric to assess students. Besides that, class is very well put together and enjoyable!

Maybe quizzes would keep students tuned in throughout the semester and give them an idea of how recollection is very important for exams rather than identification (because of free response).  


There were 3 tests of 65 points, short answer:
Test 1, average = 40.37, SD=12.61, High=62 low=16.5
Test 2, average = 43.86, SD=10.14 , High=61 low=18.5
Test 3, average = 45.63, SD=11.31, High=61.5 low=13
High scores indicate that the material could be learned. Low scores indicate that the material was challenging.

The grading curve was 3.5 (A-/B+) , consistent with last year.


No criticisms and a few compliments suggests that reducing (but not eliminating)"recent literature, landmark literature (and Nobel links), and personal reflections" was greeted positively.


I was happy that 20 ou of 26 students replied to this survey

Although many students feel that only the first two of SLU's dimensions apply to Science courses, I was impressed with the thoughtful comments rationalizing how the course fulfilled all the objectives


There was a confluence of useful suggestions on how to improve the brain dissection which I intend to incorporate next year

this page was last revised 6/17/2013

Return to Assessment page

Return to Syllabus

Return to Stark Home Page