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Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Dertien, Joseph R. [1].

The evolution of a botany program in response to a new educational environment, or “please don’t let my plant class go extinct”.

External forces such as budget constraints, enrollment statistics, and shifting student demographics create pressure to keep university and college programs engaging and relevant to the student educational experience. At Saint Xavier University, a perceived decrease of student interest in botany, and popularity of a pre-health biology program with no botany curriculum requirements have posed significant challenges to effectively recruiting students into the upper division botany course, summer session botany course, and a botany course designed for non-majors. Furthermore, under-preparedness of transfer students or low knowledge retention from the general biology sequence has contributed students failing to meet learning objectives in the upper division botany course. The low enrollment, cancelled course sections, and limited academic success and engagement has also had a direct impact on the ability to recruit students into the undergraduate research program.

In response to these new challenges, several changes in the informal botany curriculum have been implemented to counter these negative impacts and promote botany as an academic subject of merit. These changes include (1) an honors natural science course that emphasizes plants and ecology under the umbrella of the more widely recognized and/or relatable subject of sustainability, (2) redesign of traditional lab activities to those with more focus on student centered learning and “buy-in” based on student interests and (3) greater integration of botanical sciences in other biology courses, non-academic entities, and as a component of service learning initiatives.

Anecdotal evidence suggests some of these changes have been effective. These include observations of students demonstrating a higher level of engagement, ongoing cooperation among students on group projects, and more student-teacher interaction. Formal assessments such as exam and assignment scores show a trend of increasing performance. Several students exposed to botanical science research in the form of class activities have expressed interest in continuing work as undergraduate research projects.
Additionally, some of the positive changes to the botany courses may serve as a model for similar adjustments in other courses or programs. The curriculum changes have also revealed areas in student learning that require additional strengthening and have highlighted a need for formal avenues of communication among academic units, facilities, and administration in order to accomplish educational goals.

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1 - Saint Xavier University, Biological Sciences, 3700 W 103rd Street, Chicago, IL, 60655, USA

student-centered learning
Project-based learning
Course-based research experiences.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: 18, Education and Outreach I
Location: Sundance 4/Omni Hotel
Date: Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Time: 9:30 AM
Number: 18007
Abstract ID:450
Candidate for Awards:None

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