Tag: program assessment
It is easy to start up a program and think the work is done. Nothing could be further from the truth! Good science programs are always trying new things, evaluating, gathering info from the workforce, talking to graduates now in professional schools, etc. Good programs are on a never-ending quest for program improvement.
Where does the information come from to drive adjustments? At McMurry, all academic departments undergo annual assessment of their programs. We are given the liberty to select what aspect of our program to evaluate in a given year. Some programs evaluate what they are good at so they can check off the box saying they are successful. Biology at McMurry takes a different tack. We see assessment as an opportunity to uncover our weaknesses so we might make adjustments to strengthen our program for the benefit of future students. In the past, this led to the creation of the BIMS degree and Life Sciences degree to complement the Biology degree. Our approach to assessment is discovery of information to guide ongoing program improvement.
So what does Biology use to help measure program quality and success. We use internal and external measures. Internally, we use a diagnostic exam taken during the Junior year to see how well our lower-level courses are performing to prepare our students for upper level work. For BIMS majors, this is accomplished in BIMS 4000 Junior exam, a degree requirement. The course carries no load credit, and features an online exam created in-house that can be taken as often as desired until an acceptable score is achieved. The feedback is invaluable! If we find an abundance of missed questions in a particular area, we know we have a course we need to work on. We also have an internal measure of quality based on the students’ capstone research projects. This senior project and resulting research poster are very telling in how well a student can “go deep” integrating the breadth of their coursework to guide them. Is this student ready to enter work or research or professional school with a toolkit and the experience to do more than just talk about their discipline?
We also use external measures. Students take the ETS Major Field Test in Biology in the BIMS 4000 course. This gives us valuable information about how our students compare with those from hundreds of other Biology programs around the nation, both in their composite scores for biology knowledge in general, and in the subscore areas appropriate to their degree program. Our seniors also take the Collegiate Learning Assessment exam to measure growth of writing and reasoning skills over their four years of college. Also nationally-normed, this provides additional confirmation of the quality of their education in comparison with students from across the nation in a variety of college majors. And finally, we look at the success of our students in using their degree to further their careers – entry into a science-centered job, acceptance into a science graduate program, or acceptance into a professional school program. Their success beyond McMurry and the feedback they provide helps us emphasize what is important and eliminated wasted effort for future students aspiring to similar careers.
How intentional is your science department in assessing its quality?
This coming fall there will be a few modest changes to the BIMS program. Part of our ongoing assessment is focused on how our students are doing; the remainder is focused on how our courses and program structure can be improved. Based on feedback received, we are making these changes:
1. We are changing BIOL 4320 Molecular Cell Biology to be BIMS 4320 Molecular Cell Biology. It made no sense to us to have a course listed under BIOL when Biology majors are not required to take the course and it cannot count for credit toward their major, when that same course is a required BIMS program course.
2. We are modifying the way advanced electives are to be categorized through the addition of two new course numbers: BIMS 4X91 Advanced Topics in Microbiology and Public Health, and BIMS 4X92 Advanced Topics in Genetics and Molecular Biology. Since program inception last year, we have allowed a wide variety of courses to satisfy the 9 hrs of upper level BIMS program electives – courses from Biology, Biochemistry, Psychology, Pathophysiology from the nursing program, and Kinesiology. We believe more focus is needed to help strengthen the core of BIMS-centric courses, and so these two new course designations will be our first step in doing this.
3. We are dropping BIOL 4310 Immunology. This course will still be offered annually, but will now be a course under BIMS 4391 Advanced Topics in Microbiology and Public Health: Immunology (probably to be referred to as Advanced Topics: Immunology). Dr. D’s Cancer Biology will be offered as a 4392 Advanced Topics: Cancer Biology. So, though it would seem we are losing a very important course (Immunology), the fact is it still will be offered but under a new number.
4. We are re-designating the 3-hour requirement for Immunology as a 3-hour requirement for any BIMS 4X91 OR BIMS 4X92 offering, opening the program to be tailored more toward the interests and needs of our students.
With these simple changes, we believe we have made a small but important step in improving our program.
If you have never been to Mesa Verde, you cannot imagine how majestic and awe-inspiring this world heritage treasure is. It represents the most amazing collection of artifacts of a lost civilization that one can imagine.
One of the key elements of the BIMS program is establishing for graduate programs and professional schools our own collection of artifacts to testify to the strengths and abilities of our students. The BIMS program participates in routine assessment of student and program success. We want to document proof of effectiveness in providing students with useful and marketable knowledge and skills, and proof that our courses are effective in meeting the program’s goals. Our flyers for the BIMS program (see BIMS Downloads at the top of this page) outline three lines of evidence (”artifacts”) our students will have of their knowledge and abilities:
- The biological portfolio of biological products (their personally isolated and identified strains of bacteria, proteins and other products of assays and extractions done in lab, gels and other artifacts of productivity in the lab),
- The electronic portfolio (posters of their research, reports, digital photographs and micrographs, etc. – artifacts of their analysis and reporting to the scientific community), and
- Their performance on the BIMS 4000 Junior Exam.
April 5th marks the day the BIMS 4000 Junior Exam is made available to our junior students. It consists of basic, intermediate, and advanced questions over the program goals covered in each of the freshman and sophomore courses:
- Intro to Scientific Research,
- Unicellular Organisms,
- Human Physiology, and
Here’s a sampling of three questions students might find as they take this exam…
Means used for preserving foods and increasing their shelf life typically include
A. Acidification to prevent fungal growth
B. Addition of salt or sugar to lower the pH of the foodstuff
C. Removal of available water and addition of acids
D. Pasteurization to sterilize the foodstuff
E. More than one of these
The germ layer from which the skeletal muscles, heart, and skeleton are derived is the
Within the same individual, some genes mutate at a much higher rate than other genes. This is because
A. Some genes are larger than others providing a greater chance for mutation
B. Some genes have hot spots, which are locations that make them more susceptible to mutation
C. Some genes are larger than others, which prevents DNA polymerase from incorporating the incorrect base during replication
D. A and B
E. B and C
The answer for one of these is A, for one is B, and for one is C. We’ll let you figure out which is which! Or, you can find a BIMS major and ask them for a little help. May your artifact from these three questions match the artifact they will develop as they complete the exam!