Michelle A. Fisher, M.N.S.: Using Changing Biosphere in Biology for Majors at Three Rivers College
About this CourseStudents may take BIOL 190: Biology for Majors to satisfy credit for the Valuing General Education course requirement.
Over a 5-week period, I incorporated the "Changing Biosphere" module into the Ecology section of my Biology for Majors course to allow students to explore the interdependence between the biotic and abiotic world through changes in relationships among the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. This Spring 2018 semester, I had 16 students. The class had four 50-minute lectures, one 2-hour lab per week. The course is for 5 Credit Hours (Contact Hours: Lecture 4 hours, Laboratory 2 hours. Total 6 hours per week). We met on T/Th from 8:00 AM – 10:45 AM.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate MaterialsThrough use of the module, I hoped to connect the geosciences to the study of ecology and to the understanding humans as actors in the dynamic and evolving nature of ecosystems. I hoped to integrate scientific data of the geologic record of biodiversity to apply student understanding of how the Earth's interrelated systems have responded to change in the past to address the grand challenge of threats to biodiversity in modern day.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
I chose the "Changing Biosphere" module because the units easily aligned with the pre-scheduled topics covered during the Ecology section of my course. Because the units didn't chronologically align with each weekly topic, I taught the modules on Tuesdays, and regularly scheduled lectures/labs on Thursdays during the weeks of the semester when the units were being integrated into the course. When appropriate, I would reference something learned from the modules to what was being discussed during the Ecology lectures and labs. "Unit 1: Introduction to the Geologic Timeline & Mass Extinctions" & "Unit 2: Causes of Mass Extinction" tied in well when discussing the "Origin of Species" lecture; "Unit 3: The Interconnected Nature of the Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, and Biosphere" tied in with the "Ecology & Ecosystems" lecture and lab; "Unit 4: Impacts of Environmental Change on Organisms: Horses" tied into "Taxonomy & Systematics" and "Animal Behavior"; and "Unit 5: The Sixth Extinction" tied in with the final Ecology Project.
I used each of the assessments for each unit within the module. I formatively assessed students as I listened to their reporting out of ideas, as I listened for productivity within their group discussions, and as I assessed the quality of answers prompted within the activity sheets. Summative assessments included the reading quizzes, answering questions within the unit handouts, and a final letter written to a potential donor in funding a potential conservation project. Instead of having the students turn in the multiple choice reading quizzes upon completion, I graded the quizzes together with each individual group. If an incorrect answer was chosen, I would turn this into an opportunity for formative assessment as we discussed which answer would be the better choice. Questions answered within the handouts individually or as groups were reported out and discussed as a class. And the final letters written had opportunity to be revised. By taking these actions, the class average grade was high.
The Module Goal and Module Summative Assessment are listed as headings for the InTeGrate module to introduce each of the units within the module. As an overarching theme, it makes sense to explain these module goals early as an introduction to the module. When I first began looking through each of the InTeGrate modules to implement into my course, I was drawn to the "Changing Biosphere" module because of its ability to align with my learning goal. But what truly caught my attention was the module goal and the Module Summative Assessment that I was able to view early upon opening the module and I took an introductory glance. I was sold on modifying the Module Summative Assessment as the final Ecology Project for my course. I had planned for students to write a paper and present their findings on a poster board and conclude the semester with a mock poster session at a conference with snacks and punch, etc. The "Changing Biosphere" module includes a Word version of a well thought out rubric that could easily be modified for the report and poster presentation.
"Changing Biosphere" Module Goal: Students will evaluate recent human influences on the biosphere in the context of the geologic record.
"Changing Biosphere" Module Summative Assessment: Write an essay in which you compare and contrast current human-caused extinctions with one of the past mass extinctions events of your choosing in terms of 1) evidence, 2) magnitudes, and 3) causes. When you discuss the causes, be sure to explain any important interactions among Earth's spheres.
Suggestion: By the end of the semester, however, when it was time to introduce the final Ecology Project, I could not find the resources that I knew were somewhere within the module. The Unit 5 module did not loop back to this, so I could not remember my plan. I remembered that I had a great idea, and kept searching at the end of the final unit and even searched through material posted after the units. With end-of-the-semester hustle-and-bustle, I simply created an entirely different project. At the end of the final unit or posted after the units, a wrap-up discussion to tie what was learned back to the module as a whole for review would be useful for future InTeGrate module users. Here, users could be taken back to the Module Goal and Assessment.
The "Changing Biosphere" module helped in meeting my courses Course Learning Objectives of 1. Assessing the interdependence between the biotic and abiotic world, and 2. Organizing living organisms based on taxonomic principles. Because the module related to real world problems, the Valuing component of the course was also met. More specifically, the integration of the "Changing Biosphere" module into the Ecology section of my Biology for Majors course allowed students to explore the interdependence between the biotic and abiotic world through changes in relationships among the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. Through use of the module, the study of geosciences was connected to the study of ecology and to the understanding of humans as actors in the dynamic and evolving nature of ecosystems. Scientific data of the geologic record of biodiversity was utilized and allowed students to apply their understanding of how the Earth's interrelated systems have responded to change in the past to address threats to biodiversity in modern day.