Learning Goals

What We Will Study
Biology textbooks contain vast amounts of information – and it’s not all equally important. This class won’t try to do it all, but we will try to do really important things well and in depth. Here, the “really important things” are the foundational concepts, principles, and skills that will form the basis for your future learning in biology and that are most critical for being a biologically literate citizen. So, while I do find the reproductive strategy of Planaria fascinating, it just doesn’t rise to the level of importance that other big ideas do when I’m making decisions about what to include and what we’ll have to pass on.

The content domains for this course include Genetics, Evolution, and Ecology.  Within these subject areas, our studies will focus on the big ideas that help us understand how biological systems work and on the connections that explain how and why these subjects are integrally related.  In the Schedule, you will see that our content is organized around questions rather than topics. It is my hope that this reflects our emphasis on understanding how and why things work they way they do in the natural world, rather knowing just knowing random “stuff”. The questions that were chosen reflect big ideas that many biology experts regard as critical for a broad, foundational understanding of biology. Because principles and big ideas encompass many smaller ideas, daily topics will be broken down for you in the form of discrete learning objectives that more specifically articulate what it means to understand the larger subject and to help you think about what you will need to know and be able to do as you study for the class.

How We Will Learn
The learning that happens in our class is a shared responsibility. As instructor, my role is to facilitate your learning by providing activities, resources, and opportunities for you to practice your thinking and develop your biology learning skills. Your responsibility is to actively engage in those activities and opportunities so that you can practice your thinking and develop the skills that will help you succeed in the course. There are decades worth of research that say the best way to learn science is to do it.  So, to the greatest extent possible, we will “do” the science that we can in a classroom of 200. We may not have pipets or microscopes at our disposal, but we can practice our skills in observing, reasoning, explaining, modeling, and evaluating biological information in the same way biology professionals do in their daily work.

Goals for Your Learning
In this course, it is my goal that our classroom will foster a collaborative and supportive environment in which you will:

1. Gain fundamental knowledge about the facts, concepts, and theories that are foundational in the study of genetics, evolution, and ecology;

2. Develop scientific skills such as argumentation, modeling, and data analysis that will enable you to use your biology knowledge to solve problems, make predictions, and reason through complex information in a variety of contexts;

3. Effectively represent your understanding of biological information in written, oral, and visual forms intended for a range of audiences (e.g., peers, instructors, general public);

4. Evaluate claims and information portrayed in media and elsewhere by connecting facts to theory and using your understanding of how scientific knowledge is constructed and evaluated.