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GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY - GEORGIA PERIMETER COLLEGE

PROPOSED STANDARDS FOR A NON-MAJORS BIOLOGY COURSE*

-DRAFT-

(September 2001)

Goals and Objectives

        The primary objectives of a non-majors science course are

    1. to introduce students to the process of scientific thinking
    2. to help students gain an appreciation for how science is conducted
    3. to provide a knowledge base in a particular scientific field that students can use as a foundation for life-long learning in the sciences

        Standards 1 and 2 (below) have been developed to address these objectives. They are envisioned as having application not only to biology, but to other scientific disciplines as well. Programs that successfully meet these standards are expected to support their instruction with a solid foundation of informational content. Informational content provides the background knowledge required for a general understanding of scientific concepts, the tools that students must use to hone their skills in inquiry-based investigations, and the perspective for understanding the impact of science on society.

        At most colleges and universities, non-science majors are given a great deal of flexibility in their choice of courses to fulfill their science requirements. The non-major at a typical undergraduate institution is allowed to choose among several disciplines, including (though not necessarily limited to) biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. Thus, unless there is a required multidisciplinary core science course in place, the informational content presented to non-majors will extend across the scientific spectrum.

        With the recent explosion of knowledge in the biological sciences, the information base for biology has become so broad that it is nearly impossible to produce a set of standards with a precisely defined content requirement. However, certain fundamental concepts (listed in Standard 3, below) are expected to appear in any college level biology course. Programs requiring a general survey course in biology may seek to give uniform coverage to all of these concepts. Alternatively, other programs may opt to focus on a limited number of concepts as a way to give students in depth exposure to the process of scientific inquiry. Such programs should still present the underlying principles behind these concepts in enough detail to ensure that students have the background knowledge necessary to achieve Standards 1 and 2.

*Submitted to the QUE Initiative by: Barbara Baumstark (Georgia State University), Sheryl Shanholtzer (Georgia Perimeter College) and Virginia Michelich (Georgia Perimeter College)

Standard 1: Scientific Inquiry, Reasoning and Communication

Students will be able to:

  • Ask scientific questions of their world
  • Demonstrate the ability to read and understand scientific literature written for the educated lay reader
  • Critique and analyze claims of others in a scientific context
  • Construct reasonable hypotheses
  • Formulate and defend alternative explanations and models on the basis of evidence
  • Communicate effectively in oral and written forms
  • Use basic equipment in laboratory courses and demonstrate awareness of specific technology that is used to carry out biological investigations
  • Use computers for data analysis, literature searches and retrieval of data from reliable databases


Standard 2: History of Biology and its Past and Present Impact on Society

Students will be able to:

  • Analyze how progress in biology depends heavily on the political, social, economic and cultural influences occurring within a society at any given time
  • Discuss historical changes in biological theories over time
  • Recognize the integration of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and geology into the study of biology
  • Understand the impact of science and technology on the global society
  • Discuss and identify ethical issues that new technology raises
  • Demonstrate the application of biological concepts to:
    • Personal issues
    • Society
    • Economics
    • Technology
    • Ethical issues

Standard 3: Informational Content

Explanatory statement:

        The following information is designed to serve as a guide to general biological concepts that can form the foundation for life-long scientific literacy. It is anticipated that all biology courses will address the Underlying Principles in some form. However, the Specific Topics used to illustrate these principles may vary, depending on the area of biology that forms the focus for the course.

Concept #1. Life's Common Plan

Underlying Principles:

At first glance life seems to have so many forms, sizes, and activities that there appears to be little commonality among living organisms. However, all living things are made of fundamental units called cells. Cells are organized structures in which the activities necessary for the maintenance of life are carried out. Within their membranes they maintain their chemical integrity in the face of a changing environment. They obtain energy to power their activities and the materials that are required for growth, and they are able to rid themselves of the wastes generated by these activities.

Specific Topics.

  • Structural organization of cells
    • Prokaryotic/eukaryotic cells
  • Basic cellular processes essential for sustaining life
    • Energy and nutrient requirements
    • Reproduction
    • Adaptation
  • Response to environmental cues
    • Cell-cell interactions
    • Homeostasis
    • Response to external stimuli

Students will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell structure
  • Explain strategies for acquiring energy and nutrients needed to sustain life
  • Understand that reproduction ultimately occurs at the cellular level
  • Describe how organisms respond to environmental stimuli

Concept #2. Continuation of Life (Genes, Chromosomes and DNA)

Underlying Principles:

        Although no single biological entity lasts forever, life in one form or another has existed on earth for approximately 3.5 billion years. For most organisms, the components of life are passed from one individual to another through the process of reproduction, with all of the information necessary to carry out life's processes being transmitted to the next generation. Reproduction includes heredity, the passage of traits from parent(s) to progeny.

Specific Topics.

  • Basic laws of inheritance
  • Chromosomal basis of inheritance
    • Cell duplication
    • Formation of reproductive cells
  • Molecular Basis of Inheritance
    • Chemical composition of DNA
    • DNA structure
    • DNA replication
    • Translation from DNA to protein
    • Mutation
  • Human manipulation of genetic material

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the basic processes of inheritance and expression of genes
  • Describe the processes involved in duplication of cells and in formation of reproductive cells
  • Understand that DNA is duplicated and determines the structure and function of proteins
  • Explain how scientists use biotechnology for practical purposes

Concept #3. Physiological Processes

Underlying Principles:

        Cells and all organisms, since they are made of cells, carry out their basic activities in similar ways. All rely on enzymes to catalyze chemical reactions. All must obtain concentrated energy and nutrients to power their activities, and they all have similar mechanisms for transporting materials into and out of the cell.

Specific Topics.

  • Energy and Enzymes
    • potential/kinetic
    • storage in ATP
    • enzymes as catalysts
  • Energy Transformation in Living Systems
    • photosynthesis
    • nutrition
    • digestion
    • respiration
  • Transport
    • Transport into/out of cells
      • diffusion
      • osmosis
      • active transport
  • Waste removal

Students will be able to:

  • Define enzymes and relate their activity to their structure
  • Explain why cells require energy and give examples of energy uses by cells
  • Identify the sources of energy for plant and animal cells and discuss its release and storage within an organism
  • Describe how materials enter and leave cells, distinguishing between active and passive processes
  • Identify waste products, how they are produced, and mechanisms for removal

Concept #4. Adaptations of Life's Common Plan

Underlying Principles:

        While all life exhibits similar modes of organization, shares information with succeeding generations through similar processes, and makes use of similar molecular and physiological mechanisms, the differences in life forms are often more evident to the observer than the similarities. This leads to scientific inquiry concerning both the extent of the variations and how they could have arisen from a common stock.

Specific Topics.

  • Evolution as an ongoing process
    • Mutation
    • Selection
  • Results of evolution
  • Biologists' scheme for organizing life

Students will be able to:

  • Explain how mutation and selection are instruments of evolutionary processes and give examples that demonstrate evolution as an ongoing process
  • Recognize that diversity is a result of the evolutionary process as organisms adapt to different environmental pressures
  • Understand that scientists have a framework in place for grouping organisms according to ancestral relatedness and that this framework is constantly being refined and extended as new information becomes available.
Concept #5. Connections Among Organisms and Between Organisms and Their Environment

Underlying Principles:

        Organisms are discrete entities; however, they cannot and do not exist without interacting with their environment. They must obtain energy and supplies from the environment, some of which may come from or be passed to other organisms. They must also rid themselves of wastes, which then become additional components of the environment. Finally, they must deal with other organisms as they compete with and help each other.

Specific Topics.

  • Energy movement through organisms and the environment
  • Material cycling through organisms and the environment
  • Mutual support and dependence of organisms

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the pathway of energy transfer from sunlight through primary producers and consumers to waste heat returned to the environment
  • Explain how atoms pass back and forth between organisms and their environment
  • Give examples of and describe interdependence among organisms