STUDENT-CENTERED TEACHING TOOLS
Our curriculm development activities have focused on improving the the large lecture format of introductory biology. As a result, we have produced curricular materials and strategies for teaching that bring the excitement of biology research to students and provide the students with a sense of individual involvement in their learning.
Highlighted projects include:
A Biology Concept Framework was created that placed the vast number of concepts and details being taught in Introductory Biology in a hierarchical and cross-referenced framework.
We began designing "personalized" problem sets in which each student answer questions that cover the same conceptual material as their classmates, but with different particulars. Therefore, students can work in groups but still produce their own work.
Make learning more active:
In-class demonstrations and experiments that ground abstract concepts in reality by allowing students to see, touch, and smell biology reagents in the context of experimental design and interpretation were developed.
The in-class demonstrations were expanded to create a voluntary laboratory component in which the students could delve more deeply into hands-on activities and explore the connections between different topics in the course.
In collaboration with the teacher education program at MIT, we developed an exercise in which the students used wearable computers to participate in a simulation of genetics experiments.
Using technology to fill a need:
Graham Walker's use of images and video clips to enhance his lectures by sharing the excitement of biology with students.
Student use of a computer program that generates 3D representations of protein structures. The students were able to manipulate the structures and use the information they gleaned to learn about basic biochemical principles.
The creation of interactive lecture interfaces to allow students to explore protein structure and function outside of the classroom environment and on their own time frame.
Computer animations were created that help students understand basic biological processes by focusing on the key concepts rather than stressing details.
Many of our classroom advances have been utilized in 7.014, an introductory biology course taught at MIT. All course materials have been posted on MIT's OpenCourseWare website.