Past interests: From the early 1980s until the early 2000s, I conducted molecular-biological, biochemical, and genetic research on gene regulation, cell signaling, and cell-cycle control using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. During part of that time I taught courses on molecular, cell, and development biology
Current interests: Since then, my focus has been on undergraduate education. In addition to now teaching courses on cancer clinical trials, I try to help identify, frame, and make progress on pedagogical and faculty-governance issues concerning course requirements for undergraduate degree programs.
Such degree programs in the College have many course requirements, including requirements at the level of the campus (e.g., campus Gen Ed requirements), at the level of the College (e.g., College CASE requirements), and at the level of individual departments/majors. Some requirements are to take specific courses; others are to take some number of courses within a certain category.
One question: What sorts of features and descriptions of degree requirements should be decided by vote of faculty-governance bodies versus decided by administrators/administrative bodies?
Another question: At what level of specificity should the purposes for, and/or the features of, different types of degree requirements be defined?
In principle, requirements can be defined in terms of A) what students are expected to learn in courses that fulfill the requirement, and B) what students and/or instructors are expected to do in courses that fulfill the requirement.
Here are some reasons to define degree requirements:
- To help in making decisions about which courses, including which ones offered on other IU campuses and at other institutions, should and should not count as fulfilling a requirement,
- To help in making decisions about whether and how to enable students to test out of a requirement,
- To help those who teach courses that fulfill a requirement to have a good sense of what the instructional expectations are for that requirement,
- To help those who evaluate teaching to have a good sense of what the instructional expectations are for a requirement,
- To help instructors of subsequent courses to have a good sense of what students are expected to have learned in previous, required courses,
- To help in making curricular decisions, including about the need for each requirement in the first place and about the possibility of modifying, combining, or re-ordering requirements, and
- To help students to understand the rationale for and importance of each requirement.
Some requirements for the Biology BS and BA, and some questions about each of them:
1. The six Biology “Core” courses:
- What are students supposed to learn in each of these courses, no matter which section of it they take?
- Can some of these courses be defined largely by the terms and concepts that they are meant to help students to learn? (Note: The “Terms Project,” initiated in the summer of 2015, is investigating whether it is possible to identify terms that instructors of each section of certain Biology Core courses agree are important for students to learn, no matter which section of the course students take.)
2. Upper-level Biology “lecture” courses:
- What features does a course need to have to count as fulfilling this requirement? (And is lecturing really a defining feature of this requirement?)
- What features does a course need to have to count as fulfilling the “Advanced Skills” requirement?
- In what situations, if any, may courses that fulfill the College’s Intensive Writing requirement also count as fulfilling this requirement?
3. Upper-level Biology “lab” courses:
- What features does a course need to have to count as fulfilling a “lab” requirement?
- What sorts of individual study (e.g., BIOL-X490) projects, if any, should count as fulfilling a lab requirement?