Standards for Biology major - level 14
Draft version developed by Georgia State University and Georgia Perimeter College, August 2002
Barbara R. Baumstark, Georgia State University
Therese M. Poole, Georgia State University
Virginia Michelich, Georgia Perimeter College
Sheryl Shanholtzer, Georgia Perimeter College
In recent years, the field of biology has entered a state of unprecedented growth and opportunity. The development of new technology has enabled biologists to ask fundamental questions that appeared insoluble a few years ago. Because of the rapid accumulation of new information, the knowledge base available to the student of biology is constantly changing. Those seeking to develop standards for the biological sciences must build a set of criteria that encompasses the theoretical framework and scientific information essential to the modern biologist, while at the same time maintaining the flexibility to accommodate and evaluate new hypotheses as they arise.
The successful identification of learning outcomes that apply to all students in the biological sciences will ensure that these students possess the knowledge and the skills necessary to maintain a high level of scientific literacy throughout their lives. The following three steps are each essential for this to occur.
1. Definition of Standards
a. Scientific process - at what level should students be familiar with the hypotheses, experimental techniques and data analysis that have formed the foundation supporting currently accepted scientific principles?
b. Content -what information base are students expected to accumulate during the course of their education?
c. Application - what skills do students need to develop in order to use and extend their accumulated information base throughout their lives?
2. Implementation strategies
a. How are the standards being addressed through the current curriculum?
b. What new courses or initiatives are needed to meet the standards?
3. Assessment procedures
a. What tools are used to evaluate the success of implementation strategies?
b. How will the results of the evaluation process be interpreted?
1. Definition of Standards. The goal of any set of standards should be to ensure that students possess a defined core of information coupled with the skills to use that information as well as the expertise to evaluate its validity. Students will be equipped with the ability to use and extend their scientific knowledge base throughout their lives if that knowledge base is presented in a context that stresses:
1. Scientific inquiry, reasoning and communication
2. History of biology and its past and present impact on society
3. Information content in biology
Like the organisms that are the subjects of biological study, disciplines in biology can be viewed as continuously evolving entities that rely on the mutual interaction of many different components. At the root of every scientific discipline, including biology, is an acknowledgement of the importance of scientific inquiry. Scientific inquiry forms the support structure responsible for the development of each discipline. The information obtained from scientific inquiry, the generation of new principles to explain this information, and the communication of the results to others strengthens the entire scientific process, thereby fueling further inquiry.
The ability to convey the true nature of scientific inquiry is greatly enhanced by an understanding of the historical and social contexts that provide the settings for scientific discovery. A thorough background in the history and nature of science, and the ways that science and technology impact human society, provides students with the necessary perspective to critically evaluate the scientific basis for debates involving developments in the biological sciences. In order to appreciate the quantitative aspects of biology, it is essential that the curriculum apply the principles of mathematics, chemistry and physics to the theoretical foundations of biological processes. This integration of biology with other related disciplines is a crucial element for the mastery of biology.
Students should be informed of the personal and societal impact of developments in biology. The developments interface with many aspects of human life, such as cloning and the potential for genetic testing and gene therapy, human health and emerging infectious diseases, and environmental concerns.
Mastery of scientific concepts requires a minimal facility with basic scientific vocabulary. Students who cannot define a ribosome for instance, will be unable to comprehend the process of protein synthesis. Therefore, it is essential that students exhibit a familiarity with currently accepted hypotheses, observations, and other material that make up the information content in biology. However, just as the commitment of vocabulary lists to memory does not provide one with mastery of a foreign language, so memorization of terminology outside an appropriate scientific context will not endow students with a lasting proficiency in the biological sciences. To obtain fluency in biology, students must continuously reinforce their skills by applying their newly achieved knowledge to the understanding of hypotheses and the interpretation of experimental observations. They must also be given the opportunity for hands-on participation in the research process. This will give them an appreciation for the events that lead to the accumulation of scientific knowledge. Furthermore, it will provide them with the ability to evaluate the strengths and limitations of scientific evidence that is used to support new hypotheses that may be proposed in the future.
2. Implementation. Two elements are vital to the successful implementation of undergraduate standards.
1. Expectations for level 13-16 must build on the foundations established in K-12.
3. Assessment. In its simplest form, assessment involves an evaluation of instructional outcomes; that is, it determines the degree to which the standards have been met. Deficiencies in reaching the goals set by the standards committee promote a reevaluation of many aspects of the standards process, raising the following questions.
The information content in the biological sciences has traditionally covered such a broad range of topics that it has been difficult to identify with precision those facts that every biology student should know. As a consequence, two students who have obtained a comprehensive education in the biological sciences might exhibit distinctly different levels of familiarity with specific details about a given organism. However, information recently obtained through the application of new technological innovations (including molecular and cellular cloning techniques, high resolution microscopy, and automated DNA sequence analysis) is making it clear that biological systems are better defined by their similarities than by their differences. The scientific study of virtually any living organism can be addressed from one or more of the following perspectives. The information gained from one perspective does not stand alone, but overlaps with and modulates the knowledge base of each other perspective.
In Standard 3, a short description of each perspective is given along with the knowledge base expected of all students who major in biology. Typically, an undergraduate biology student would be expected to accumulate this information in the first or second year of study (by year 14). With this knowledge as a foundation, the student would then be able to focus on specific areas of interest, applying the basic concepts learned in his or her general studies to address questions in more specialized biological subdisciplines (e.g., microbial pathogenesis, toxicology, immunology, benthic ecology). The material outlined in Standard 3 is not static: its content would be expected evolve in response to new scientific discoveries, so that certain topics may diminish in importance or vanish altogether, while others take on a new significance for those wishing to become literate in modern biology.
STANDARD 1: Scientific Inquiry, Reasoning and Communication
Standards: Students will be able to:
STANDARD 2: History of Biology and its Past and Present Impact on Society
Standards: Students will be able to:
STANDARD 3: Information Content in Biology
Standards: Students will be able to: