Biology B.S. Assessment Plan

Mission Statement

One of the major missions of the Department of Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno is to provide an outstanding and current undergraduate curriculum in basic biology. This curriculum emphasizes critical thinking and expression of thought, a basic understanding of science and its methods, and important technical skills, including analytical skills, related to the field of biology. Students are also equipped with basic and applied knowledge in general biology, and current knowledge in their field of expertise. Practical experience and exposure to ethical issues are also important to the overall curriculum. Graduates with a Bachelors Degree in Biology should be capable of succeeding in the workplace, professional school, or in graduate school upon graduation from our B.S. program.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Curriculum Content, formative: As they progress through Biology curriculum course sequence, the students will be able to successfully apply the knowledge they gained in each course to succeed in the following course in the recommended course sequence.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Students will successfully apply the knowledge of general biological principles they learned in introductory Biology courses (BIOL 190, 191, 192) when taking Genetics (BIOL 300)
  • Students will successfully apply their knowledge of basic genetic principles to upper-division courses, such as Molecular Biology.
Assessment Method
  • Pre-test will be developed, and conducted in the beginning of each semester in BIOL 300. Additionally, students will be surveyed to assess their opinion about the value of current pre-requisites for Biology core courses.
  • A pre-test will be developed and conducted in the beginning of each semester in BIOL 315 (Cell Biology) to assess students' understanding of basic genetic principles.

2. Methods of Science: Students will be able to identify, appreciate, and use the features of scientific method in research and distinguish it from other ways of knowing and learning.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Students will apply basic vocabulary terms specific to the process of science and use them appropriately in their written work.
  • Students will identify the main steps of scientific inquiry; correctly apply hypothetic-deductive reasoning and principle of falsifiability to biological systems studied during laboratory exercises (generate questions based on observations, develop testable hypotheses/predictions, design and conduct an experiment to test predictions, reject or accept hypotheses based on data evaluation); distinguish between observational and experimental tests when testing predictions to a hypothesis.
  • Students will formulate and correctly apply the main rules of experimental design; collect, analyze, and present data using appropriate techniques.
Assessment Method
  • At least one question concerning the process of science will be included in the final exam of the main core Biology courses: BIOL 190, 191, 300, 315, 314, 316, 415. Students will demonstrate proficiency on the subject in each of these courses.
  • In laboratory courses (BIOL 192, 394, and 395) students will conduct laboratory experiments and semester-long projects where they will apply hypothetic-deductive reasoning and. Performance will be assessed via written lab reports and term papers.
  • In laboratory courses (BIOL 192, 394, and 395) students will be assessed on appropriate approach to experimental design, data collection and interpretation via evaluation of their laboratory reports, term papers, and oral presentations.

3. Locate, Evaluate and Communicate Information: Students will be able to obtain relevant information, process and evaluate this information using critical thinking skills, and communicate their ideas to a wider audience using an appropriate format.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Students will be able to locate appropriate sources of primary and secondary literature using both the library and web-based searches.
  • Students will be able to use critical thinking skills to interpret information, make judgments about the gathered information, and show the ability to use inference to make logical conclusions about their work and/or the work of others.
  • Students will demonstrate via written assignments proficiency in interpreting and applying knowledge obtained during scientific literature search, and clearly communicates these findings using the concise style of scientific writing.
Assessment Method
  • Students turn in copies of the references or include a literature-cited section as part of a term paper assignment in the introductory course (BIOL 192) and in their major's capstone course (BIOL 415). The course instructor and an outside evaluator will judge whether the
    1. student turned in the appropriate quality and
    2. references were used appropriately in citation.
The instructor and evaluator will score a random sampling of these papers in each of these two categories using a scale of 1-5 ("fails to meet expectations" to "fully meets expectations") using a rubric.

  • Evaluations will be based on random sampling of student term papers in the introductory course (BIOL 192) and the major's capstone course (BIOL 415). In both courses the stated goals of the student papers (or parts of those papers) will be very similar, and a grading rubric is published to the students prior to the assignment. The rubric is designed to evaluate students in the area of critical thinking, which include, correct interpretation of information, evaluation and analysis of other's work, and inference skills. Students will be ranked from 1-5 ("failing to meet expectations" to "fully meets expectations")
  • Term papers in the BIOL 192, 394, 395 and 415 courses will require students to explain biological information obtained from the writings of others. The sources might be from the primary scientific literature or from other sources deemed appropriate by the instructor. A grading rubric will be designed and applied all of the courses to assess writing style and clarity. A random sampling of papers will be evaluated.

4. Curriculum Content, summative: Senior Students will be able to show proficiency in content knowledge in the field of Biology that meet or exceed those of the national average for similar institutions. Students will also demonstrate competence in technical skills used in advanced laboratory courses and in the workplace.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Students will demonstrate factual and conceptual knowledge in general biology and in their areas of expertise. Students obtaining a Biology degree with an emphasis in ecology and evolutionary biology should have strengths in the areas of organismal biology, population biology, evolution and ecology. Students obtaining a Biology degree with an emphasis in cell and molecular biology should have a strong understanding of cell biology, molecular biology and genetics.
  • Students will demonstrate proficiency in basic technical and analytical skills used in both lower and upper-division laboratory courses, and in the workplace.
Assessment Method
  • During their senior year, students will be required to take a 0-credit Senior Exit Seminar course survey/exam to access their level of knowledge in the major fields of Biology. As a part of this course, students will be given a survey using the ETS Major Field Test in Biology as has been done during 2003-2006. The ETS Major Field Test in Biology was chosen in past years in order to provide the department with a breakdown of each student's scores and an overall score for all students in various areas of Biology. These areas include: cell biology, molecular biology and genetics, organismal biology, and population biology, evolution and ecology. Scores are then compared to all schools that administer the test (>250 US schools) and to several equivalent institutions to determine how our students rank relative to students at other institutions. In addition to the Major Field Test, all graduating seniors will be required to complete a self-assessment survey which explores the skills they obtained while studying Biology at UNR, as well as evaluation of the Program.
  • Student skills will be accessed by giving a lab practical in General Biology Lab (Biology 192) to test their proficiency in technical and analytical skills, as well as in upper-division Laboratory classes (Biology 394 or 395) Examples include:
    • Use of a bright field microscopes, micropipettes, and Spec 20 spectrophotometers.
    • Calculating molarity and percent solutions using standard formulas; calculating mg/ml concentrations derived from an equation generated from a protein standard curve; carrying out t-test and chi-square calculations.
    • A description of how to make molar and % solutions.
    • A basic understanding of t-test and chi-square parameters, such as interpreting p-values and calculating degrees of freedom.
Student success rate in these classes (% of students completing the above courses with a C or higher) will serve as a measure of this performance indicator.