(This poster was presented at the December, 1996 American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting.)

Teaching Introductory Biology The Same Way We Learn New Information: In The Context Of Interesting Questions And On A Need-To-Know Basis

A. Malcolm Campbell, Don L. Kimmel, and Jan R. Serie*

Departments of Biology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28036
and *Macalester College, St. Paul, MN 55105


''So, why do we have to know this?'' If you hear this question from your students, you can be sure they will purge all the material once the semester is over. To address this concern, we have developed a Study Guide (download here) that approaches introductory biology (cell and molecular) from a different perspective. Instead of covering material by marching through the chapters of a typical text, we cover the same material when we need to know the information in order to answer attention-grabbing questions. For example, students are asked how the sight of a bear entering the room is converted into signals that cause their livers to increase the concentration of glucose in their blood, their hearts to beat harder, and their skeletal muscles to contract. To answer these questions, they must understand phospholipid bilayers, protein conformations, receptors and ligands, phosphorylation cascades, calcium as a second messenger, membrane potentials, etc. The Study Guide is divided into four sections: Cellular Communication, Genetics, Bioenergetics, and ''Interesting Topics.'' In the genetics section, they learn classical and molecular genetics in order to identify the causes of sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and Huntington's disease. The students learn why the US government sprayed paraquat on marijuana in the 1970's, and why cyanide is the poison of choice for terrorists as motivation for learning photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Cancer, AIDS, and transgenic organisms are covered in the final section as a way to integrate all the material covered during the semester. The specific questions that the students are asked can be changed to suit the interests of the instructor and can help keep the material interesting and fresh for the instructor, too. The Study Guide is very popular with students and has been used successfully by several different instructors so it is not ''personality-dependent.'' Any standard introductory biology text can be used, though we currently use Biology, by Neil Campbell.

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Return To Downloading Study Guide Page

Current Version of Web Page Associated with this Course

Here is a list of the Poster Panels
1) Goals and Methods
2) Rules for Study Guide Approach
3) Learning On A Need-To-Know Basis
4) Text As Reference and Study Questions
5) Supplement Text Book with Updates
6) WWW as Supplement
7) Practical Considerations
8) Anonymous Student Evaluations of Study Guide Approach

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© Copyright 2000 Department of Biology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28036
Send comments, questions, and suggestions to: macampbell@davidson.edu