Outcomes Assessment Plan for BL A512 Signal Transduction
Dr. William Stark
Prepared October, 2000


This is one option as a required course for masters and doctoral students in cellular and molecular biology. In the Fall, 2000 semester, I am responsible for the first half of this course which emphasizes channels and bioelectric potentials, G-protein coupled mechanisms, and an introduction to developmental signal transduction.

Course Goals

Students are expected to learn a considerable amount of information in the field of
signal transduction provided by:
(a) Selected portions from a modern and pedagogically advanced text.
(b) Classic and modern papers.
(c) A web page providing lecture outlines and past examinations (http://starklab.slu.edu/Signal00/SyllabusSig00.htm).
(d) Lectures utilizing the web outline and informational diagrams.


A midterm exams is administered (I am only teaching the first half of this course), graded, and returned to the students as part of their learning experiences. Special features of the exam is as follows:
(a) All questions are short answer.
(b) Students are presented with figures they have seen in text, lecture and web site.
(c) They are asked to provide such specific answers to questions that there is little room for subjectivity in the grading.
(d) In many instances, these questions are specifically designed to apply and integrate the information.

For the sake of record keeping, exams are copied before they are returned to the students.

Each student uses the exposure (s)he has gained to find a recent paper in an area relevant to signal transduction and of interest to that student. (S)he then writes a short paper describing the major finding of the paper and the nature of the library strategy used to find the paper.


To compare background of graduating biology majors with national norms, the policy SLU's Biology Department adopted April, 1998, built around having majors take the Graduate Record Exam, might have been an excellent strategy. In the subsequent two and a half years, the SLU administration did not obtain data from that adopted policy. Instead, in September 21, 2000, "each faculty member" was charged to "develop an outcome assessment tool." I could have watered down my expectations to a level where all students would perform marvelously. However, the simple truths are (1) that many biology courses, this one included, strive to present students with a substantial amount of information; and (2) that the best assessment centers around traditional tests. This stated, separate assessments for each course that each faculty member offers is, and has always been, absolutely essential to grade students. However, to serve that function, the test must be challenging enough to distinguish different performance levels. Applied to determining whether the course goals were met, only the performance of the best students on the test can be a meaningful way to assess outcome. Also, this overall strategy is too chaotic to achieve what was stated above, "to quantify the biology background of graduating majors in a way that could be compared to national norms."

This page was last updated on October 24, 2003

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