The Biology Department recognized the hard work and innovation of all of our Learning Assistants (LAs) by presenting “The Outstanding Learning Assistant Award” to two groups of Biology LAs for the fall 2022 semester. These students presented posters that were judged by the Biology Honors Committee to best outline procedures that will improve teaching in our undergraduate courses. Financial support for this award is made possible by Professor Emerita Elizabeth Godrick.
Aananya A. Asnani, Jennifer Shihyun Kim, and Kenneth Tong
Gearing BI107’s Lecture Using Student Feedback
The introductory biology class, BI107, is a fast-paced class promoting the need for interaction between peers and professors for success in the course. In addition to complex content, the sheer size of the course prevents the formation of tight connections with the professor and other students, so it is vital to provide incoming students with support in the form of lecture learning assistants (LLAs).Former students of this course provide insight through their notes, lead quiz review sessions, and hold office hours. However, there are limitations to these opportunities; notes only convey so much information and review sessions and office hours schedule can interfere with a student’s schedule. The large lecture halls also make it difficult to gauge what the class is struggling with as a whole. The student evaluations for LLAs this semester indicated a common desire for more opportunities to review in addition to review sessions. In order to overcome this problem, LLA panels could be held at the beginning of every week. A Google form would be sent out a week before to help LLAs and professors determine concepts in need of clarification in the following lecture. They would collaborate to design a structured question and answer session based on the form and designate fifteen minutes at the beginning of lecture for LLAs to answer the most common topics among students. The Google form and guided question and answer session will benefit both students and mentors, promoting a stronger and prominent role for LLAs in the course.
Inaya Abdul-Haqq, Olivia Camuti, Arya Gupta, and Lilly Saunders
Isle Royale: Reanimated
The structure of the BI107 lab course includes two simulated lab experiments that generally have less involvement and overall impact when compared to the other hands-on labs. One of these labs specifically is the Isle Royale, which addresses topics relevant to the ecology of specific populations such as carrying capacity and predator-prey interactions.We would like to create new labs that encourage students’ curiosity and engagement and also reflect upon subjects relevant to their ecology focused lectures. By adding a lab that includes important aspects of observational studies, we ensure that the academic goals fit in well with the curriculum concerning experimental design and also would amplify student interests and equalize the level of physical activity. This lab enforces the skill of developing null and alternative hypotheses, predictions, and χ² tests in addition to data collection and analysis. This lab can be implemented by allowing the students to create their own community with the use of a terrarium. Each lab room (303, 309, 311) will be responsible for one terrarium and each lab section will have differing amounts of each species in the terrarium in order to compare among the other lab terrariums. The terrariums will be created by the department during the weekend prior to the lab to ensure an equal distribution of work among lab sections. The terrarium (20 gallon tank) will include an array of plants (moss, small tree branches and bark, and pothos plants) and three species to create a simple food chain. The species introduced would be pinhead or small button mushrooms (due to the visibility of consumption by our herbivore) as a ‘mock’ producer, dwarf woodlice as the herbivore, and gray tree frogs as the carnivore (due to low cost). During week 1 of the lab, students will maintain the terrarium – terrarium 1 will have an equilibrium of all three species (6 mushrooms, 15 woodlice, and 3 frogs), terrarium 2 will double the amount of woodlice and keep the other conditions, and terrarium 3 will have double the amount of frogs and maintain the other conditions of terrarium 1. Then, students will create predictions for what will occur in the terrarium as more or less of certain species are introduced. They must generate null and alternative hypotheses. During week 2 students will venture between the different lab rooms to observe what happened in the terrariums as the amount of each population is shifted – this is when the final numbers of species are taken down and a class average will be generated for their postlab.
Congratulations to the award-winners and thanks to all the hardworking LAs who participated in the presentations. More information on the Learning Assistant Program can be found here.