Assessment Activities

A variety of activities for assessment is important to help keep students engaged.  In this biology course I will be using several different methods of assessment including:

1.  weekly quizzes
2.  discussions
3.  lab reports/lab report assistants
4.  other activities = journals, short papers, and virtual labs
5.  projects

1.  The weekly quizzes will be used to help set the foundation for the information that will be covered that week in discussions and labs.  They will be multiple choice and students will be allowed to re-take them until they get a perfect score.  The idea is to let students learn when they make mistakes on the quiz.  When the quizzes are repeated the students will be presented with different questions, and the responses will be randomized to help prevent students from simply memorizing the letter corresponding to the correct answer. With a good learning experience from the quizzes the students will then be ready to move on to the discussions and labs where they will apply the information at higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy.

2. The discussions will continue to help the students develop their understanding of the topics at a higher level.  They will give me an idea of student comprehension and their ability to apply the material we are learning.  It is also a place where students can receive feedback from me and other students to help guide their learning and redirect them if they are misunderstanding something.

3.  The lab reports, including the lab report assistants, are used to solidify what they are learning while performing the labs.  Completing these allows the student to review what they did and apply the information in new contexts.  The lab reports are also important because the students are learning about the scientific process and this is a practical application of how science is conducted and disseminated to others.

4.  Other activities including journals, short papers, and virtual labs are used in addition to the weekly quizzes, discussions, and lab reports during weeks when the regular activities are shorter than normal, so further reinforcement is necessary, or when there are many objectives to meet and they cannot all be
met with the regular activities.

5.  There will be four major projects throughout the class corresponding to the three major sections of the course: cellular biology, genetics, and ecology and conservation, and one project on the labs.  The objective of the cellular project is for students to "speculate on the advantages given to cells as they evolved their structures and organelles."  Students will work in a group of three to four people, selected by me, to create a sales pamphlet on cellular organelles for primitive alien cells that are looking to purchase Earth organelles and hope to evolve into multi-cellular species.  It will be up to the students to decide how they will present the pamphlet, but options include a website, a paper, etc.  They just need to be able to address all criteria in the rubric.  This project was chosen to give students a fun and engaging way to think about how cells use organelles and why they are important for cellular evolution.

Next is the genetics project which will explore different genetic topics students may be familiar with.  This will also be a group project, but group selection will be based on students' preferences for a topic.  Each topic is based on one of the following objectives: "discuss the pros and cons of cloning," "describe how genetic changes lead to cancer and ways to prevent them," "describe how DNA profiling can be used in forensics," "discuss the benefits and concerns of using genetically modified organisms in medicine and agriculture," and "discuss the importance of genomics for the study of evolution and conservation biology." Presentation of the material is up to the students again, they just have to meet the criteria in the rubric. Completed projects will then be used as the basis of discussions where everyone is required to ask questions and comment on each project.

The final project for the course is an individual project about human impacts on the environment. The objective is to "analyze the impact humans have on other organisms and ecosystems."  The students will identify a human induced problem that affects species or ecosystems and identify steps necessary to solve the problem.  Presentation of the material will be up to the student again, with the requirement that they need to meet the criteria in the rubric.  This project was chosen to inspire students to think of ways to help solve human induced environmental problems.  The entire assignment and rubric are located at the bottom of the page.

The last assessment for the course will be based on the labs.  The objective is to "re-evaluate lab write-ups." The students will create a portfolio with their five favorite labs.  The labs will be updated after receiving initial comments from me, and with new information they have learned since they completed the lab write-up.  The students will write a summary about each lab and reflect on why they chose to include that particular lab in the portfolio.  A rubric will be provided for grading.  This project was chosen to let the students highlight what they think was their best work, or the labs that inspired them the most in the course, and let them revise the labs to include new information gained since completing the lab.  

EXAMPLE ASSESSMENT: Human Impacts on the Environment Project
Your final project for this section of the course on ecology and conservation is to identify an environmental problem that you have a particular interest in.  It can be large, like climate change, or small, like saving a local population of toads.  Research the topic and then write a proposal detailing steps that need to be taken to remedy the problem.  In the proposal you are the one initiating the project, so think about the resources available to you right now and how those resources could expand to help you reach your final objective.

Submit the topic of your project by the end of module 13, and the final proposal will be due at the end of module 16.  I expect the proposal to be a minimum of 5 pages double spaced not including the works cited page.  You have the freedom to write the proposal as a report, or you could create a website for your proposal with different pages for different steps to accomplish your objective.  Just make sure you meet the criteria listed in the rubric.

Human Impacts on the Environment Project
ITEMExemplary (100%)Very Good (80%)Good (60%)Needs Improvement (40%)POINTS POSSIBLE = 100
Introduction/Analysis of the ProblemProvide a detailed background on the problem including the major players if applicable (ie. oil companies, a local corporation).Some details are missing. Analysis of the problem gives a little background, but lacks detail.Skims over the problem.20
Identification of Starting ResourcesProvide a thorough description of the starting resources and how they will be used (ie, computer resources, local contacts, a conservation group).Some resources are provided with information on how they will be used, but detail is lacking.Some resources are provided with little information on how they will be used.A few resources are provided without detail on how they will be used.20
Steps/Resources to Accomplish ObjectiveGive specific steps that will take you from your starting point to your final goal. Describe how you get to each step and what will be accomplished there that will help you move to the following step.Some questions remain about how one step will lead to another, or how a step will be accomplished. Detail is lacking on how the steps are connected.Briefly skims over the steps with no mention of how one step will lead to the next.30
Benefit to Society, the Environment, and any Profits that will be MadeClearly explain how the project, once completed, will be beneficial to humans (ie. we will be able to breathe cleaner air), the environment (ie. biodiversity will remain high), and any benefits that will be incurred including monetary benefits.Some good benefits are mentioned, but more detail is needed to make it complete.Detail is lacking.Brief mention of how society wil benefit.30
Writing/FormattingGood layout, paragraph structure, and writing. Use proper citations within text and in the works cited page. Minor flaws - occasional typos, and minor formatting issues.Occasional citation issues, spelling and formatting issues.Major flaws - incorrect citations, poor spelling, etc.Up to 10 points will be lost for poor writing/formatting.