BIOL 415 Nerve Cell Mechanisms in Behavior
BIOL 615 Neural Bases of Behavior
Prof. Stark
Spring, 2015 Assessment Report

Form items in plain text; Student comments, statements, information, 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:
http://starklab.slu.edu/CV/Assessment.htm

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

Average = 1.47

Comments:

As a pre-medical undergraduate student, I believe this course was vital in expanding my knowledge regarding the electrophysiology of the human body, emphasizing the fundamental inter-workings of action potentials, channels, neurotransmitters and much more.

I felt that the course provided an excellent review of current and past discoveries in neuroscience. Although it was fast paced, I understood that it needed to be so in order to accommodate the material covered, which was reasonable for a student at my level.

This course fulfilled its objectives. The material has already assisted me in understanding different research and current studies in neuroscience, and I look forward to seeing how the information learned in this class will apply to my future studies.

I agree that as a student gearing up to take on medical school, this course allowed me to synthesize topics and concepts that I covered in my other Biology and science courses.

This course has broadened my horizons in the areas or neuroanatomy and and advanced neuroscience concepts.

Course met all of the stated objectives. I think this course gave a great overview of the field of neuroscience.

It is difficult to say if this will course will cause me to take better advantage of classes in medical school since I have not been to medical school, but I predict it will do so.

The course offered a survey of neuroscience that was reasonable, especially for those deciding to further purpose the field. However, some of the details were forgotten post test, especially historical and animal experiments that were not as relevant to those continuing in a general medical education.

I feel like I have learned a lot after sitting down and going through the material countless times. There are times when I wish the less important things were taking out of the lectures that don't necessarily apply to the test. This is not to say this information is unimportant but that I'd rather have it filled with material that supports the information that will be tested on.

Some of the terminology is difficult to grasp, which I'm sure will be like medical school, but it can sometimes make the material difficult to learn. Reiterating common ideas and definitions is helpful.


"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

Average = 1.5

Comments:

The integration of the material stemming from the textbook and Dr. Stark's acquired knowledge over the span of his career as a scientist and professor was almost seamless.

Great level of coverage for the amount of time in the course.

The level of the course is appropriate and the textbook was a good resource.

They were more wide-ranging than I expected, but it helped that we did not go into crucial depth on everything.

I have taken other neuroscience classes in the past and this course covered many of the same topics, but in more detail. I think the material is detailed, but very reasonable and interesting.

I really like the topics.

While I might have preferred a bit more advanced approach to a few other topics, either from a research or a medical perspective, I felt that many of the chosen topics were essential for understanding the basics of neuroscience.

With the combination of students ranging from graduate school to undergraduate, the course material is appropriately challenging but sometimes to specific.

The textbook wasn't on the list when I registered my classes
at the bookstore. What was provided online was enough that I didn't
need it. This isn't my only class this year to have a book like this.

For the reasons as stated above, the course was stimulating and interesting, covering a large range of topics. However, some of the smaller details were harder to remember and were unexpectedly asked on exams.

For the most part the topics covered were reasonable, however I occasionally felt as though some of the material (especially the first few classes) were over my head. I probably could have benefitted from a little e bit more of a background.

Sometimes, there was a lot of information to memorize for a single exam.

I would say that the textbook has been minimally helpful. The lectures have been more helpful. I would be weary of highly recommending that students get the book unless it is necessary. It has not necessarily been necessary for me to have for the material tested over.


"Outlines, pdf's, PodCasts, and previous test questions on the web were important resources."

Average = 1.19

1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree

Comments:

The website is an amazing resource for the class, and I hope it stays operational for many years.

The online format of the class was the best I have ever taken at SLU. The organization of the material, the extra resources provided, and the research paper supplements helped make the information more approachable. At the same time, the pdf's, podcasts, and previous exam questions presented the information in a way that made studying more directed.

The outlines, pdfs, and previous test questions helped immensely in my preparation for exams. They were very useful resources.

I utilized all of the materials that were provided for the course and I benefitted from them greatly.

I did almost all of my studying from the outlines, and pdf's, but the previous test questions were helpful for review at the end and the PodCasts were useful as clarification for a number of the pdf slides. Overall the format allowed for a very balanced study approach.

They definitely helped established how to prioritize our studying, making clear what was most important to understand.

Without the outlines and the previous test questions, I would not have been able to succeed in this class.

I have an autoimmune disease that limits my ability to
attend class so the availability of the podcasts is a godsend. It has
really helped me. The posted questions are also extremely helpful.
They're actually the best way I learn. I go through the slides and
then learn all the questions. The questions really help me fill in any
holes I have.

The outlines and PDFs were essential in studying. I know that I would not be successful in this course without those resources. The previous test questions are really helpful in preparing for the tests. Few professors provide so much support in preparing for exams.

So important and so helpful.

I enjoyed the various perspective to learn the course material and found it a good way to learn the material.

The most valuable resource was the previous year tests. Some of te handwritten slides were difficult to read and seemingly unimportant. I'd recommend adopting tegrity instead of the podcasts as well.

I thought that the outlines were helpful to reach the links. The outlines had exactly what is on the pdf slides. If you choose to keep the outlines and the pdfs, it would be great to have them in powerpoint style so that we can copy and paste the relevant information from the outline into the text portion in powerpoint. The podcasts were only helpful for those who missed class (with an excused absence). I don't think that the podcasts should be made available to those that choose to miss class. They could just be sent to those who have an excused absence.
The previous test questions were extremely helpful!


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

As one comment

Recognizing the plethora of scientists contributing to the field of neuroscience, helped foster a sense of endearment for the pursuit of intellectual inquiry and other similarly scholastic values within our community of ambitious students, faculty, and other successful scholars.

BIOL 415 is a challenging and rigorous course that exposes students to a higher level of thinking and understanding that requires students to apply themselves to achieve scholastic success and greater knowledge.

This course was more than just a textbook course of dry material: Dr. Stark integrated the values of this institution into how the information was delivered, making it a holistic learning experience.

The course presented interesting information in the ever growing field of neuroscience, often backing material with supplements on bioethically related information that helped reinforce SLU's spirituality and values. This course presented a week in which community building was challenged by group dissections, helping foster leadership skills.

This course particularly focuses on number 1 & 2 which is good because it's so in depth and trying to incorporate the other three would be difficult and somewhat useless. The videos before class probably hit on number 5 sometimes too.

Points 1 and 2 are obviously related to this course, and are mandatory elements to the success of this course; there are also references to point 5 in the website in reference to school days off (MLK day, Holy Thursday, etc.). There is little application of points 3 and 4 just because of the nature of the course.


Itemized

1. Scholarship and Knowledge

This course is very informative, and it teaches me things I don't
think I'd come across in many other courses.

I feel that I am learning a lot of very important things that I had never been exposed to previously in other neuro courses. These are things i consider to be very integral to the worth/meaning behind my degree, and I am definitely glad I am taking this class. Previous classes focused heavily on brain physiology, whereas this class focuses heavily on PNS functionality as well; this is challenging, but I feel that it is very neccessary that I understand neuro concepts that extend outside the brain just as well as inside the brain.

Dr. Stark gave us all of the relevant material to succeed in his course. We learned an extensive amount and how different systems interact, counteract, and work together.

This course increased my knowledge on the subject and challenged me as a scholar.

I loved the material we learned and felt as if it really challenged me and covered a wide variety of neuroscience

This course is clearly relevant to increasing a student's knowledge.

This course provided a large amount of detailed information and it required discipline to stay on top of the material as it was learned.


2. Intellectual Inquiry and Communication _

This course introduces intellectual inquiry by frequently referring to what past "greats" in science have done.

Through this course I added to my knowledge of how intellectual inquiry is done in research and the methods for communicating findings through journals, magazines, etc.

The information presented in class was interesting and made me think at a more critical level to make connections. I liked the personal reflections.

He encouraged questions and was knowledgable about the material he covered. He communicated what was expected from the students before starting the course.

Very applicable and brought much real world knowledge as well.

Great insight into neuro.

This class raises a lot of questions in my mind as a neuroscience major, and gives me more opportunity/reasons to collaborate with other students and other resources to further my udnerstanding.

The neuroscience lab and sheep brain dissection contributed to intellectual inquiry and peeked my interest more than anything else this semester.


3. Community Building _

The brain dissection was exciting and it did help me learn anatomy.
It's really hard though to do it on a test because all the images are
up close and I work best of see things in referece to other stuctures.

Dr. S is super nice and makes me feel like a valued student on this campus.

Although there were not many opportunities for community building within the lecture, the sheep brain dissection lab encouraged me to work with my classmates as a team.

The small class size was helpful in the dissection and allowed for more individualized attention.

There wasn't much community building in class except for a few brief experiments. Some lab work with the brain were helpful but most people stuck with people they knew.

Not very applicable

It is difficult to say that this class builds community.


4. Leadership and Service

Throughout the course Dr. Stark touched on elements of leadership and service through his pre-lecture videos on a variety of topics, including those especially relevant to diversity and history._

Work done in the service of science and humanity were presented in class by previous students and by nobel prize winners.

Not very applicable

It is difficult to say that this class builds leadership and/or service.

Not relevant


5. Spirituality and Values

I enjoyed the life lessons and stories you shared in class!

This class does a surprisingly good job at promoting appropriate values (mainly via the pre-class videos that connect to current/past events).

Not much discussion was given towards spirituality or values, which is understandable given the nature of the course.

Not necessarily present

Not relevant


What changes would you propose for next year?

I do not think I would change much. This has been a very unique course for me and I would definitely keep all aspects of the course.

Nothing. It's great the way it is.

I highly benefitted from the guest speaker, JH, that came to talk about his case of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. I suggest that more guest speakers are utilized to understand the material and provide real cases to demonstrate the material being learned.

I thoroughly enjoyed this class. However, I think it would be interesting to do some in class assignments or more activities to connect the material learned to real world scenarios. Thanks so much for everything, Dr.Stark!

Perhaps set apart some time for students to research a scientist, and present their findings to the rest of the class in the form of a project, in the place of another exam.

Better brains for the sheep brain dissection :)

Perhaps small assignments in between exams to keep a more constant engagement in the course, which would also help anyone who struggles with exams. Also, an extra convenience would be to integrate book figure captions into the pdf's or outlines to put some of the images into context better. Overall, there was nothing significant to complain about in this course. Thanks again, Dr. Stark.

For next year I would propose perhaps adding some more recent articles into the course as student reading in addition to the book and as preparation for a discussion. Supplementary articles could be used to spark student discussions for a short period of class, perhaps no more than ten or so minutes a week. This would allow for students to engage with scientific writings and the process by which new ideas emerge and are tested in the field. Furthermore, it would provide for increased student engagement in the lecture material.

I think guest speakers would enhance learning and promote more attendance in class.

More instruction during the dissection would have been helpful, but I was also unable to attend the first day, so this may not be true for everyone.

More of a background in the first couple of weeks, and perhaps more supplementary assignments in addition to the 3 exams.

While the podcasts are extremely helpful, I think tegrity is an easier system to use. I like to listen to the podcasts after lecture and I sometimes do not know with what slide the information goes.

I would introduce the details as presented this year and include the supplemental information, but I would focus more on general knowledge on exams. Perhaps changing podcasts to tegrities for those that are more visual learners would be helpful?

Mentioned above

INFORMATION:

There were 3 tests of 65 points each:
Test 1: Mean=49.66, SD=10.13, High=64, Low=24
Test 2: Mean=40.79 SD=15.01, High=60.5, Low=8
Test 1: Mean=45.09, SD=10.88, High=61.5, Low=20.5

The grading curve was 3.54 (A-/B+), in keeping with, slightly higher, than the last 6 years

COMMENTS:

In one request, one reminder, and one final reminder, I obtained replies from 16 out of 27 students

Sometimes it seems to me (and to many students) that the dimensions were handed down by an anonymous administrator, fluent in drivel, who did not know that there were science courses in the college. However, there are some heartwarming comments based on all five dimensions. There was definitely a time when an assessment such as this needed to address how the course addressed the five dimensions. Is that still the case? I don't know, and nobody has told me.

PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR

(1) Not much is needed with these positive comments

(2) I will give the greatest consideration to more outside contributors and class assignments


this page was last revised 5/28/ 2015

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