BIOL 415 Nerve Cell Mechanisms in Behavior
BIOL 615 Neural Bases of Behavior
Prof. Stark
Spring, 2011 Assessment Report


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 web blurb on assessment [] ("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." For responses, go here

"These objectives were reasonable." For responses, go here

"The selection of topics for emphasis was reasonable." For responses, go here

"The level of the textbook was appropriate." For responses, go here

"Outlines on the web were an important resource." For responses, go here

"Consolidating chapter and web figures and outline portions into Power Point presentations improved the lectures." For responses, go here

"Having previous year's applicable test questions on each outline was a useful study aid." For responses, go here

"Having stories from recent and landmark literature was useful." For responses, go here

"Having links to Nobel lectures is an interesting resource for the web site." For responses, go here

"Having student presentations helped achieve closure and scholarship." For responses, go here

Make a statement about attendance.

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

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

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


The class enrollment was considerably larger than ever before and the probable reasons are two-fold (1) it had not been offered when I was on sabbatical in 2010, and (2) there was an influx of students from the new neuroscience contract amjor. There were two graduate students (in BIOL 615), one of whom was in biology. there were 25 undergraduates (in BIOL 415), 5 were 5th year, 18 were seniors, and 2 were juniors. 9 were neuroscience majors, 13 were biology majors, 2 were environmental science majors, and 1 was a psychology major.

Because of the popularity of the neuroscience contract major, and the likelihood that it will become a genuine major, as well as the overall trend to increased enrollments, the enrollment is expected to increas yearly.

The grading curve was 3.47, close, but a little lower, than the previous two years, but higher than years before that. I attribut this to better learning outcome in recent years.

There were 3 tests of 65 points, short answer:
Test 1, average = 43.3, SD=12.38 , High=64 low=14
Test 2, average = 43.2, SD=10.45 , High=62 low=21
Test3, average = 37.87, SD=12.38, High=62 low=16.5
High scores indicate that the material could be learned. Low scores indicate that the material was challenging.


In general, the course was met with approval. Thus, in terms of changes, only fine tuning is suggested.

Possibly I should finally give in to pressure to post PowerPoints

Possibly I should cut several topics. Most likely to go would be "language and cognition" and "memory and the brain," some of the weakest, shortest, and most hurried topics. The loss might be minimized since the outline and PodCast links could be kept as a resource. Sadly, if enrollment grows, the dissection may become too cumbersome to include.

This page was last updated 7/28/11

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