BIOL 415 Nerve Cell Mechanisms in Behavior
BIOL 615 Neural Bases of Behavior
Prof. Stark
Spring, 2008 Assessment

The questionaire students were given is in plain text, Student responses, information and future plans are in italics.

This is the course assessment, not the teacher evaluation - those are given on line. Please fill in below.

For your information
"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." On September 21, 2000, "each faculty member" in Biology was charged to "develop an outcome assessment tool." Even at this time, the interpretation was one of "student outcomes assessment." In December 2002, "course assessment" replaced "student outcomes assessment," and faculty were directed to collect information used to change or improve the course, in keeping with SLU's web blurb on assessment:

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

average = 1.25


This course gave students a solid foundation in Neuroscience, regardless of their scholastic level or future plans.

As a future medical student I am sure that I will be well prepared for my upcoming neuro courses. The testing style actually requires one to study at a level that is deeper than multiple guess. As a result I think I have learned quite a bit and have retained it.

Can only answer as an undergrad really, did help me a lot, was really interesting

"These objectives were reasonable."

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

average = 1.33


This course covers a tremendous amount of material. Having responable objectives, like those stated in the syllabus, help focus the students and guide their learning.

The tests are challenging, but they are graded fairly.

"The selection of topics for emphasis was reasonable."

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

average = 1.25


The amount of material is demanding, but appropriate for an upper level biology course.

I really liked the brain dissection. There is no better way, at least for me, to understand where all the structures are and their relation to one another. My only suggestion for it is to make it more guided.

"The level of the textbook was appropriate."

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

average = 1.5


The textbook is outstanding.

I think the textbook is thorough and easily readable.

It seemed to be a pretty standard textbook as far as other courses that I have encountered. I plan to keep it for future reference.

I thought the textbook was an excellant supplement for the class.

Was a really good book

the text book was very interesting but had a lot of detail that the lecture did not have.
The lecture and the book shared the core concepts but details were different. I felt that this made the class harder, since I usually tend to study out of the book for most of my science courses. I don't know if I would have learned any less if there was more material from the book instead of from the lecture.

"Outlines on the web were an important resource."

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

average = 1.23


Lecture outlines were essential for success in thiis course.

The outlines on the web are essential for the course. They give a strong foundation for notes and are easily accessible.

It would be more useful if the Power Point presentations were available to students at a password-protected website, such as WebCT or Blackboard. The outlines are much better than nothing, but it takes a lot of time to refer to text book figures, especially in chapters where references jump around through the text book.

I would not have survived without it. They are not as pretty as notes in other classes, but all the figures are in the book and are readily accessible.

I think the outlines online helped summarize the important information.

Definitely, but thats only because this is a lecture based course.

"Consolidating chapter and web figures and outline portions into Power Point presentations improved the lectures."

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

average = 1.18


Absolutely. The figures really helpped the visual learners.

Teacher is up-to-date with instruction technology.

be nice if we had access to the lecture notes

It makes the info more interesting to experience in lecture.

This helped significantly. visual aids always make it easier to grasp

Would've helped to have figure pictures to take notes on too

You are a technical genious when compared to many other professors in the biodepartment. I like how you have worked your course, which is probably 20 years old, into technology. It takes a lot of effort, but I definitely see and appreciate your efforts.

"Having the last three year's applicable test questions on each outline was a useful study aid."

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

average = 1.17


Helped considerably for exams.

Yes they are very helpful because many of the questions are the same or similar. I did not use the old tests when studying for exam one and did use old tests for exam two and my grade improved, likely as a result.

I found the online tests to be a great study tool.

Especially for test 1, helped orient me, and helped me take more effective notes

Perhaps the ones I remember the most are the questions that baffle me, even though I studied all the material. It's not that I even forget what the answer was, but the question just throws me off. I would ask myself sometimes, "Where does he get these questions?"

"Having stories from recent and landmark literature was useful."

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

average = 1.41

Delete? Keep? Add more?

I really enjoyed the stories. I would add more, only if they do not detur from the depth of the material presented.

They are just about right and well-selected.


in some cases it was helpful b/c stories provided extra information on why we're covering the topic in class, in other cases extra stories were more distrcting from the material in the book

I really enjoyed them because for the most part they were interesting. I would insert one per lecture. Maybe start each lecture with one.


Was appropriate for the class level

The stories were good. they helped get the point across with respect to the information being learned.


"Having links to Nobel lectures is an interesting resource for the web site."

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

average = 1.71


As the teacher said, we might need to refer to them in the future.

They are interesting, but I do not look at them very often. If we are on a topic I really like then I will do some further investigation, but for the most part I do not use them. They do not hurt the outline being there so I would leave them.

I dont really bother looking up their names though.

"Having student presentations helped achieve closure and scholarship."

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

average = 1.54


Consider having students present a lecture topic for the day! There is a lot of overlap between the presentations and the lecture material. This might help cut-back on the time crunch at the end of the semester.


student presentations provide an oppurtunity to learn more than the textbook offers. Some of this is available on the website, but not all students take advantage of the links.

I have mixed feelings about class presentations. Mostly because the only person who learns something about the topic is the person giving the talk. I would try to integrate it in such a way that the whole class participates. You could give a topic to the entire class, and they could all vote. In following, everyone could do a part of the presentation. It would almost be more like a discussion than a presentation. The graduate students could do two sections or something like that.

However, it would be nice not to be tested on them, since the last portion of the course covers such a massive amount of material already.

Very interesting, good to have at end because we understood them better

It was a change in pace of lecture, which made it a little harder to grasp, but more interesting. Some students jumped into the material, while others eased their way through the terminology.

Make a statement about attendance.

Success in this course acheived by attending class regularly and taking good notes.

I think the attendance policy is appropriate. The grade is based on the performance in the class which is evaluated through three exams. Students have the responsibility to decide what they need to do to perform well on the exams. This includes deciding whether to come to class, taking copious notes, looking at old questions, and listening to the podcasts.

Attendance is crucial in understanding the material. Listening online is probably second best because of the lack of visual correspondence.

Attendance is necessary but attending class would be more valuable if the powerpoint slides and figures were posted online rather than the outline.

I tried to come to class as often as I could, but I just found it easier to be able to play back the online recorded lectures. It more sense to me to go through a lexture that way than to miss information here and there in class.

although the podcasts were available, showing up was still preferrable to listening to them

I think that its important to attend the lectures, as there are some things said that are not mentioned in the notes.

I really do not think attendance matters. Lectures are a good way to be introduced to a topic, but in science courses their is no substitute for reading the text. For me, attending a science course has little to do with how much I learn about the topics covered. Unless we are having a debate over a topic, learning is primarily a solitary activity.

I felt that the attendence policy is fine, and it seemed that most people came regardless of there being no official consequences for skipping. Attending the class was important for understanding the notes.

Attendance made tests a lot easier to study for.

Necessary for the course, easy to get lost if you don't attend class

I did a poor job attending class, probably because it was my last semester as a senior. I just want to let you know that I had poor attendance in Nerve Cell not because the class was boring, it was because I was boring. Your class is fascinating, and I see your brilliance as a professor everytime I attend. I personally don't know why you are teaching at SLU. You should be teaching at WASHU.

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

Scholarship and Knowledge - students were presented an indepth, coherent foundation of material, thereby giving them knowledge in the field. Scholarship was assessed via examination.
Intellectural Inquiry and Communication- students wishing to broaden their knowledge, due to intellectual inquiry, were allowed to present material on a topic of their choice pertaining to the course.
Community Building- the course, in and of itself, is a community. The relationship between instructor and student and between students was made stronger by their interactions during the course and outside through thought-provoking discussion.
Leadership and Service- The course professor, sharing his knowledge with the students, is a classical example of service. This also sets an example for the students.
Spirituality and Values- Some topics dicussed in the class, like CNS regeneration, are somewhat controversial. These topics require students to touch on their own spirituality and values to weigh the implications of new techniques and their impacts in society.

The first three are conveyed in the class.

This course engages students strongly in the first two dimensions.
The next two dimensions are very limited in classroom and lab interaction. (They might be more relevant if the teacher suggests that all students work in pairs.)
The fifth dimension is engaged in the example of the teacher's deep concern and care for his students.

The dissection of the sheep brain fulfilled Intellectual Inquiry and Communication, as we were able to apply the neuroanatomy that we learned in class. We were able to localize each structure on our own, using the concepts we learned in class.

This course was only able to fulfill the scholarship and knowledge dimension. It's a science class, I wouldn't expect it go beyond that.

I think this course pretains to the ideals of scholarship and intellectual inquiry and for grad students leadership (presentations) but thats about it. I didnt really make friends with my classmates and dont see how this course would relate to spirituality.

I think that this course addresses each of the 5 dimensions in its course website.

(Several students replied that they would not answer this question)

Are there any topics you would like to be added to the syllabus in future years?

The end of the semester is a bit rushed- trying to get everything in. Adding more topics might make things too rushed.

The course content is fine.

A general perspective on neural disorders and their treatments (together in a lecture for a big picture).


Drug actions in the brain, both legal and illegal, the reason why I took this class in the first place was to get a better understanding of how drugs work the way they do.

No, only b/c I found us to be rushing a bit in the last third of the class.

Not that I can think of.

no, everything covered was enough

maybe spend a little more time on subjects/topics at end, instead of getting it all in. Pick a few you think will be most interesting and do detailed lectures like in previous half of the semester (memory, nervous system repair)


Are there any topics you think should be reduced or eliminated?

Absolutely not.


Some mathematical formulations earlier in the course do not contribute that much to understanding the rest of the course.


I thought that each topic covered was relevant and only could be expanded on.

It is difficult for me to say that a topic should be removed because it is the first neuroscience course that I have taken. I feel like the course was well structured and the topics complemented one another.


It's all really interesting, maybe spend a little less time on voltage, but that's just my personal preference. I liked chapter 5 onward much better just cause of my interests. Thanks for a fun and interesting semester.

less electro physiology stuff in the begginning of the course. I don't need to know Kirchoff's rules to study introduction neurobiology.

Suggestions for future development.

In general, the course was met with approval. Thus, in terms of changes, only fine tuning is suggested. Possibly:
(1) post figures
(2) continue cutting cell material at beginning of course and expanding integrative material at the end of the course, a process that has been ongoing for over a decade

Information on this year's course

There were 10 undergraduates (BIOL 415):
9 biology majors, 1 psychology
9 seniors, 1 juniors

There were 3 graduate students (BIOL 615):
2 in Biology
1 in Integrative and applied sciences

There were 3 tests of 65 points:
1 - high=51, low=32.5, mean=41.5
2 - high=51.5, low=31.5, mean=43.69
3 - high=51, low=29.5, mean=40.69
(two students dropped, and these numbers only take into account the 13 that finished)
High scores indicate that the material could be learned. Low scores indicate that the material was challenging.

The course was curved at 3.56, higher than last year, taking into account higher test performance

This page was last updeate 6/4/08

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