From Dateline (March 13, 2003)
Biological Science Curriculum
by Dave Reid
In a quest to offer students a quality and relevant
education in the face of an explosion of knowledge in the field,
the core biological science curriculum is undergoing a sea of change.
Thanks to National Science Foundation grants and matching
resources totaling more than a million dollars, the department is
in the process of implementing, refining and evaluating the new
curriculum. It's an educational process not unlike the biological
evolutionary process through which organisms change and manifest
Reforming the curriculum involves major changes in
content, learning approaches and the use of cutting-edge technology,
said Joyce Ono, professor of biological science, who is spear- heading
the change under the direction of Gene Jones, chair and professor
of biological science.
“We have been working on this for the better
part of seven years,” said Jones. “It seems to be going
very well. The objective of the new core curriculum is to better
prepare lower-division students to succeed at the upper-division
level, where they will specialize in a particular sub- discipline
The changes have received the attention of other universities,
noted Ono. “We have been told by colleagues in a national
group [sponsored by Exxo-Mobil and the Pew Charitable Trust] that
promotes higher standards for undergraduate education that Cal State
Fullerton is in the forefront of change for large universities involved
in enhancing biological science education.”
At the heart of the program are four new five-unit
classes: Evolution and Biodiversity; Cellular Basis of Life; Genetics
and Molecular Biology; and Principles of Physiology and Ecology.
Principles was offered for the first time this semester; the others
were introduced last fall.
Also changing is the emphasis on memorization of large
numbers of facts.
“Students are learning through discovery - the
best way to learn science,” said Ono. “We want students
to understand fundamental processes, rather than memorizing information.
“We use the approach of guided inquiry and involve
student teams in laboratory and field work. We hope to provide a
scaffold, or framework, that students can fill in with new knowledge
throughout the curriculum, as well as involve them in the processes
of science. We want students to learn to develop questions based
on obser- vations or research and formulate hypotheses that they
Also new is the use of cutting- edge technology.Mackey
Auditorium in the Ruby Gerontology Center, as well as several classes
in McCarthy and Langsdorf halls, have been wired for the Personal
Response System, in which students respond to class or test questions
by entering answers on a hand-held transponder. Receptors record
the responses, as well as who is responding. The responses can then
be displayed on a large screen in the form of a bar graph.
Finally, Biological Sciences has instituted an exit
exam. Such an exam was first used two years ago and is expected
to provide a valuable baseline of information, said Ono.
Still another major development will be the introduction
of a degree emphasis for biological science majors, similar to other
academic areas. Beginning in fall 2004, upper-division biological
science majors can select one of four emphases: biodiversity, ecology
and conservation biology; marine biology; cell and developmental
biology; or molecular biology and biotechnology.
Faculty members are responding well to the program,
said Ono, adding that programs are planned to aid new instructors
in implementing the curriculum.
“Though we will be studying and evaluating these
changes for quite some time, I feel very positive about what we've
done so far,” noted Jones.