BL A415 Nerve Cell Mechanisms in Behavior, Prof. Stark
Spring 2005 Assessment

The form students filled out is in plain text, while responses and my comments (added later) are in italics

What is assessment? There has been and there is still considerable debate. "Student outcomes assessment" was an expression implying that whether students learned the material or attained the objectives was determined. In the Biology Department, in December 2002, "course assessment" was instituted, and faculty were directed to report how the information collected would be used to change or improve the course. This Fall (2004), the new A & S Dean, J. Michael Sproule, endorsed and further refined this latter model by suggesting that the only information that should be collected would be targeted to determining course changes. This questionaire is definitely not a teacher evaluation (you will get that later).

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."
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 5 2. agree 10 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree

If not, why not?

I expected a bit more focus on the medical objectives, but I found the material interesting

Many areas were covered, not necessarily in great detail

It provided a good basis for neuroscience information. It was also a nice summation of all the other courses I took

was hard to put things we learned into perspective. just felt like we did a bunch of memorization

glad to see more focus on humans rather than on non-humans like so many of our other bio courses

details biology-oriented aspects of neuroscience not addressed by psych courses

"These objectives were reasonable."

Circle one-
1. strongly agree 7 2. agree 8 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree

If not, why not?

I think these goals are certainly necessary for any good prep class

I believe they were reasonable, yet I believe that tests should be oriented more towards the text material and actual neurobiological functions


The objectives have been posted all along. Did you use them in deciding whether to take this course?

Circle one-
1. yes 5 2. no 8 3. can't remember 2

"The course web site was useful."
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 13 2. agree 1/2 3. disagree 1/2 4. strongly disagree 1

Any comments?

Organize the lecture notes better with powerpoints. Also incorporating the powerpoint into lecture outlines would be best; looking at just the text became too dry

It was useful because most of the notes formed the basis for the tests

The format was confusing and hard to follow, but it was nice to have everything on line

Outlines with notes on line is very helpful

Make notes/outlines more clear

Access to lecture outlines was invaluable

Neat pic but NOT what I expected. I had to use google @ times for references to pics

"The course was challenging."
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 13 2. agree 2 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree

Any comments?

It was challenging but the material was learnable if I put fourth the time

I feel that many exam questions were too in depth, while many of the important topics and general ideas were missed

It was a very challenging course

It is hard to learn how to effectively study for this course

I would like to see more comprehensive questions on the exams that focus more on overall processes rather than details. We covered so much information so quickly that it's difficult to grasp all the details

The tests could have covered more pertenent info from the booknecessary for understanding neuroscience and less random questions from the lecture outlines

almost too challenging - a focus on tests on more critical information or a switch to multiple choice is suggested

overwhelming material - quantity

"It was useful to have exams over the last decade available"
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 12 2. agree 3 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree

Any comments?

Good practice

This helped my studying a lot

Exams were very helpful when studying for current exams

They were extremely useful for the first exam, less so for the others since the old exams were comprehensive

Current test questions came from these even when test II had old questions that we hadn't covered yet on it but came from old tests (this is a problem. (ex: lentiform question and optic tectum of frog) We didn't talk about these til after test II but they were on test II

helped to gear towards an understanding of the detail of information necessary to study

"The text book was appropriate"
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 5 2. agree 10 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree

Any comments?

The pictures were very good

I did not use much, but the figures were good

It was appropriate but as I said earlier more text material should be incorporated into the tests

Good book with helpful diagrams

EXCELLENT This was my primary mode of learning all the information I learned

Seemed decent enough, though not much experience to use as a basis of judgement

Overall I learned a ton but mostly because of the book which was phenomenal. Keep using that book

"The course gave an appreciation of the roots of neuroscience."
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 6 2. agree 9 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree

Any comments?

I would have rather spent my time learning current neuroscience in better detail than nobel prize winners and old techniques

good job at discussing historical studies though lingered too long often

I found the course very interesting

"The course was sufficiently up-to-date."
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 7 2. agree 7 3. disagree 1 4. strongly disagree

Any comments?

Some areas felt dated but they were good for contextual purposes

Focussed a bit much on lod techniques and olden ways of doing things

I liked the mixture of up-to-date material and information about older experiments and how they led to the findings of up-to-date material

You did a great job giving us new research

Notes incorporate current journal article information

Lots of background research that seemed out of place

Instructor added up-to-date material in notes

Yes up to date. I like talking about relevant issues in science

"The course was sufficiently comprehensive."
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 5 2. agree 10 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree

Any comments?

Almost too comprehensive. I enjoyed the first two sections mre than the third

Very very comprehensive and informative

A lot of material was handled

Extremely comprehensive

"The personal reflections of your instructor as a neuroscientist for over 3 decades were appreciated."
Circle one-
1. strongly agree 7 2. agree 6 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree 1 (one person did not answer)

Any comments?

Added some entertainment

The reflections were anecdotal and interesting; it connected the material with real people and events

They added a "personal" touch to the class

Reflections made lecture more interesting

Some were humerous, provide personal insight into real world applications

Again would have rather spent my time hearing about current neuroscience

Dr. Stark is extremely knowledgable. However lectures were poorly structured and involved downtime. Make greater use of powerpoint

Are there any topics you would like to have added or covered more?

More on lab techniques that allowed for these discoveries

No, it was fairly comprehensive

Anatomy maybe

It was really interesting when there was psychology along with the neuro

Memory, pain perception

I would like to go more in depth in higher function processes like memory. We only had time for a brief overview

We covered everything I thought we would cover. One thing to add may be using 2 rats and observing their memory in class

Are there any topics you would like to have deleted or cut back?

Some of the information seemed esoteric to the intended lessons of the course

Maybe focus less on neurocircuitry


Neuroanatomy - dissection was sometimes difficult to follow

Despite a new and improved Sylvius disk and adding a sheep brain dissection to the syllabus, students did poorly on the neuroanatomy page of test 2 (42% average). Any suggestions?

I think most students were surprised to see these questions and did not prepare for identification on printed pictures

When in the lab we didn't really have a grasp of the different parts of the brain. I feel if we had a lecture demonstration followed by only one period of dissection it would have been more helpful

I did not have a Sylvius disk

Yes. During the sheep brain dissection, it would be extremely helpful if yoou performed the dissection yourself in class and had the students follow along while you described the anatomy. Letting students loose on the sheep brains was not a good idea

The diagrams from the brain dissection on the 2nd test were difficult to interpret because of the poor quality of the photographs. The photographs (black and white poor resolution) were not sufficient for distinguishing certain neuroanatomical areas

The tough part was how to study it. During the brain dissection it was still difficult to see every little thing. The slides on line did not have labels on slides... it was just difficult

Better coverage in lecture? I thought Sylvius was very helpful. Also would be helpful if slides from web site were clearly labeled with regards to specific parts of brain

Do the dissection as a class, with everyone following step by step; also, things on lecture note pictures should be pointed to by an arrow, just as on the exam

Have a list along with pictures next to each part (more organized)

Clearer pictures on test, perhaps diagrams rather than photographs

More book oriented figures as sometimes the actual dissection slides are harder to visualize or distinguish

The pictures on the exam were very blurry. Color pictures would have helped

The exam pictures were ambiguous and blurry. The dissection guide was so insanely thorough and complicated there was no way we could have known what to learn or not. I did not look at Sylvius so I take the blame for not having looked at it. Still 16 questions is a bit excessive for the vast amount of material we covered and the fact it was so blurry and ambiguous in the actual test diagrams.

The brain is an intricate and convoluted (no pun intended) structure. We dealt with a lot of structures and a lot of different names for each. Pick a number of critical defined (standardize names) structures, make students aware of them, and test over those. NOT EVERYTHING.

Use color pictures

In the past, I have summarized test statistics in course-outcomes assessment. I do that for 2005 below. The points are (1) the course has a lot of material as indicated by students who performed poorly; and (2) the presentation and tests are fine as shown by the fact that high scores were acheived.
Test 1, out of 75, mean = 51.6, standard deviation = 9.6, Highest=69, Lowest=29.5
Test 2, out of 75, mean = 46.3, standard deviation = 10.4, Highest=71, Lowest=33
Final, out of 75, mean = 52.1, standard deviation = 11.1, HighestA=74, Lowest=30

Four of the students' comments deserve reply:

I had to use google @ times for references to pics
virtually all the pictures were from the book that students were expected to buy

(this is a problem. (ex: lentiform question and optic tectum of frog) We didn't talk about these til after test II but they were on test II
They were covered before test II in the neuroanatomy coverage

Make greater use of powerpoint (and several related comments)
Hundreds of powerpoint figures from the text were shown

I feel if we had a lecture demonstration followed by only one period of dissection it would have been more helpful
There was a lecture before the dissection:

Plan for future semesters:
1. The overall positivity of the responses indicates that fine tuning only is indicated.
2. The neuroanatomy comments are useful, and I hope to (1) label web jpgs, edit (trim) the dissection guide
3. I hope to make the last 1/3 of the course, especially the memory coverage, more replete.

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