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ERIC Number: EJ1085513
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1536-7509
Points of View: A Survey of Survey Courses--Are They Effective? Argument Favoring a Survey as the First Course for Majors
Ledbetter, Mary Lee; Campbell, A. Malcolm
Cell Biology Education, v4 n2 p133-137 Sum 2005
Reasonable people disagree about how to introduce undergraduate students to the marvels and complexities of the biological sciences. With intrinsically varied subdisciplines within biology, exponentially growing bases of information, and new unifying theories rising regularly, introduction to the curriculum is a challenge. Some decide to focus immediately on one or a few of the subdisciplines, for example molecular and cellular biology or ecological and environmental biology, so that students may acquire sufficient depth during their studies to have mastered the subdiscipline, and so faculty can focus their efforts on areas within their expertise. Others continue to offer a general overview of principles and concepts, couched in examples drawn from various subdisciplines, and offering a comprehensive survey of the diversity of living organisms. Survey introductory courses generally require two semesters and are prerequisite to intermediate and advanced courses. Necessarily, surveys cannot cover all possible content, and faculty expertise may not be directly applicable to all aspects of such courses. Nevertheless these authors (and their institutions) favor this approach. In arguing for survey courses, they consider various aspects of teaching and learning in the context of liberal arts institutions. In preparation for this essay, the authors surveyed the Web sites of the top 24 colleges, as identified by "U.S. News and World Report" in 2004. They examined the requirements for the major in biology, particularly whether they included a two-semester course that addressed aspects of organismal diversity (the area most likely to be omitted from other curricular models). The results are summarized in Table 1 and may serve as a foundation from which readers may want to discuss their own choices for introductory courses. From this survey, the authors chose seven questions that seemed fundamental to any discussion of how to introduce students to the field of biology: (1) What does it mean to be a biology major?; (2) What sort of course properly provides a foundation for the wealth of possibilities for study of living systems?; (3) What is the best structure for an introductory course?; (4) How can meaningful depth be provided in a course designed as a survey?; (5) How can individual faculty members provide instruction in areas of biology far from their expertise:?; (6) What in the curriculum must be sacrificed to offer this comprehensive introduction?; and (7) Does the introductory survey course fill the need for science education for nonmajors?
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A