Chris, Neal Callaghan, and another 4th-year Honours Biochemistry student, Alex Whynot, have just had their abstract accepted allowing them to present a pedagogical seminar at the 2013 Association of Atlantic Universities Teaching Showcase. The Showcase is an annual event at which instructors and students share and learn about new approaches in teaching excellence. This year’s Showcase, to be hosted at Mount Allison University on October 26th, is themed “Assessment: Teaching, Learning, and Quality” and will feature presenters from Mount Allison, other universities in Canada’s Atlantic region, Bishop’s University, and the University of the West Indies.
The accepted abstract is presented below:
Signal Transduction: a small-class model for fully integrating learning and assessment
Christopher Dieni, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Mount Allison University
Neal Callaghan, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Mount Allison University
Alex Whynot, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Mount Allison University
In the Winter 2013 semester, I (Dieni) taught a Biochemistry course called Signal Transduction to 3rd and 4th-year students in the biological sciences. Given the extremely complex nature of the material, I radically revamped the course structure that semester to eliminate midterms and finals, and focus exclusively on presentations and papers, favouring problem-solving rather than memorization and “regurgitation.” An unexpected bonus of this structure was that assessment was made a part of learning, rather than apart from it. Students gave their 1st presentation in the course (worth 5%) on which they were evaluated and provided with feedback. They directly applied this feedback to their 1st paper (also worth 5%), which was on the same subject as the 1st presentation, and received further feedback. This continued as such through their 2nd presentation, 2nd paper, 3rd presentation, and 3rd paper. Overall, students received real-time assessment throughout the course, as they gradually built up to more complex material and more heavily-weighted components. This seminar will target instructors across all disciplines (including those outside of STEM) with either 1) very small class sizes seeking to capitalize on the intimate learning experience for their students, and/or 2) those seeking to “spread out” the grading weight over more assignments, incorporate real-time assessment into their courses, and make that assessment part of student learning. I will discuss the pros and caveats of this model as the instructor, and students from that semester (Callaghan and Whynot) will reflect upon it as compared to other courses.