Mark Lyford, Program Director
Aven Nelson Bldg., Room 138
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071
The University of Wyoming’s Life Sciences Program was selected as 1 of 8, of over 70 institutions, to participate in the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) Vision & Change Pilot Certification process beginning in March, 2014. PULSE was formed “to stimulate systemic changes within biology departments at all types of post-secondary educational institutions.”
UW’s Life Sciences Program is truly unique, providing a common series of courses for majors in the colleges of Agriculture, Arts & Sciences, and Health Sciences. The current Life Sciences curriculum is designed to improve student learning by creating a reasonably common educational experience for all life science majors. The courses within the curriculum are sequenced to allow continued development of core concepts and critical competencies that can be further expanded upon in upper-division courses offered by individual departments across campus.
This February, the program brought together 17 faculty and graduate students from four departments across campus to work towards their ultimate goal of helping students succeed. This articulation arose following faculty attendance at the fall 2013 Northwest Partnership in Undergraduate Education (PULSE) gathering focused on transforming undergraduate education.
The overarching discussion at the curriculum articulation meeting addressed how to best continue efforts towards development of a rich and cohesive life sciences curriculum. Individuals teaching in the program shared perspectives on how the 2011 report, Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action, aligned with the Life Program’s current learning outcomes for students. Prior to, and during, the articulation instructors considered how they might use Vision and Change as they continue working together to develop curriculum within and across the program’s 1000, 2000 and 3000 level courses.
Participants used rubrics modified from Vision and Change to discuss the extent to which they were incorporating specific concepts and core student competencies in the courses they teach. Participants then discussed how they were collectively integrating those concepts and competencies across levels within the program. Finally, the group chose three concept and competency areas to focus on in more detail in the coming year, with a specific interest in assessing whether students are learning those concepts and developing their competencies as they move through the curriculum. The Life Sciences team will be meeting again later this semester to focus on what can be learned from student work in the identified areas.
Interestingly, one of the core student competencies chosen to focus on in the coming year was quantitative reasoning, which was the main topic of conversation at the 8th Annual Life Sciences Lost in Transition Summit in Douglas, Wyoming on February 21st. In addition to this meeting, the Life Sciences Program plans to continue discussion on how to improve student’s quantitative reasoning skills through follow-up curriculum articulation in the coming year.
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