Ecology (BIOL423): This course rigorously explores the major issues in Ecology and conservation biology. While some issues in a lecture format, students present many issues in a seminar format to enhance their engagement with the material. Students are required to carry out a semester-long research project. Students start with a research question, which they develop using literature research (both for a conceptual framework, as well as for methodological information). Students usually write and submit a proposal for funding support. Students give oral progress reports on their research, as well as a final presentation on their project. In addition, students submit a manuscript of their research, have that manuscript reviewed by me, and are required to revise their work. Incorporating a research project that spans the entire semester helps to make the course more inquiry-based. Importantly, students hold a strong sense of ownership within this course, thereby motivating them to participate in all components of this course—including lectures, discussions, and other students’ presentations.
Biostatistics (BIOL415): This
course is designed to develop student statistical skills. Because the
statistical software (JMP) is very user friendly, students can focus on
the major conceptual ideas of hypothesis testing and the main
predictive models in statistics, without spending exhaustive hours
centering on programming language. Moreover, students are given
extra guidance through handouts specifically designed for each lecture
topic. In addition, small class size allows for more effective teaching
practices. The most effective activity in this course is the
student-derived project; this project forces students to engage
actively in experimental design, hypothesis testing, and evaluating
data at a high level. Until students engage in their own question, they
do not fully understand which statistical methods are appropriate to
apply to which data sets. However, once they have worked through their
own questions using a data set that they have collected, they realize
the challenge of identifying appropriate methods,
and they more fully internalize the differing types of statistical models.
Evolution and Ecology (BIOL320): Dr. Hochwender and Dr. Edwards have shared in the development of this course and have alternated teaching it. The main focus of this course has been to train students in fundamental concepts and principles of evolution and ecology. The breadth of material is extensive, so we use lectures as a mode of teaching. In addition, we have developed the course to fulfill the writing requirements of the University’s writing across the curriculum program. This requirement fits well with the course structure because we use the students’ lab experience as an opportunity to train our biology students in the skills related to writing and research. The lab experience includes training in statistical analysis, in literature research, and demands extensive writing and revision. The course engages students in field-based labs to give them active learning experiences. In addition, students carry out other lab-based projects, including multi-week projects as an initiation in creating/designing experiments (an important first step that occurs during their sophomore year).
Modern Biology: Environmental Perspectives (BIOL118): This course has been developed as part of the department’s effort to create an innovative freshmen experience that introduces biology majors to the life sciences and their role in society. This course was specifically designed to provide opportunities for student-faculty interactions. BIOL118 engages students with their instructor by centering learning in a discussion-based format. While students invest in participatory learning, students also develop critical thinking skills, basic statistical skills, and presentation skills. Students are given one-on-one time to develop their writing, research, and presentation skills. At a minimum, students are scheduled to meet for 30-minutes to discuss writing revision. An additional 15-minute meeting is scheduled to discuss presentation revision. However, many students schedule one-on-one time. While this course provides valuable information regarding current environmental issues and underscores fundamental ecological principles and biological concepts, the course is most valuable because the approach used in the course encourages freshman students to engage more fully in their education.
Science of Environmental Pollutants (ES360): The goal of this course is to provide students with a full experience of exploring scientific literature, covering a broad but detailed set of material. Through the combination of student-centered discussions, student presentations, and student-developed papers on environmental legislation, as well as a paper on recent environmental concerns, these goals are achieved. Moreover, the demands of discussion-based meetings, combined with the development of presentations, greatly enhance the ability of students in this course to critically evaluate environmental questions.
Fundamentals of Environmental Science (ES103): This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary nature of problems relating to the human environment, including social, political, and economic aspects.
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