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Rebuilding a generalist biochemistry course around core concepts rather than heavy content: Painting the big picture for a large mixed-learner cohort

By S. Rowland, E. M. J. Gillam, S. E. Hamilton, M. Ramakrishna, A. Reid, C. Smith, L. C. Ward, I. Wood and A. Wright


The University of Queensland has recently revised the BSc, and consequently we now offer a single, second-year, undergraduate biochemistry course. This course, BIOC2000, must service over 500 students from almost 20 different programs of study. The students have many different backgrounds, goals, and abilities. This is a radical departure from our smaller, more "science-centric" cohorts of previous years. In its first year of delivery, BIOC2000 uncovered serious problems in understanding of basic chemistry concepts for many of the cohort as evidenced by the answers to a chemical concept inventory test that we delivered to the students, and also by the final exam results. We decided to rebuild the course around core chemical and biochemical concepts, rather than around content, and use a "Backwards design" approach to the new curriculum. Developing student understanding of fundamental chemistry concepts and their application to the molecules and structures of life is the primary learning objective of the new curriculum. We surveyed over 80 working scientists to determine the "fundamental concepts" of biochemistry. We will present our data regarding (i) what these concepts are, (ii) how we determined if the students understood them before the course started, (iii) how we integrated these concepts into learning and assessment activities, and (iv) how student understanding of these concepts changed during the course. This project provides a roadmap for generalist course design around the fundamental guiding principles of a discipline, rather than around content. The presentation should be useful to all course designers

Year: 2010
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