The Biology Department examines our assessment data on a yearly basis to address how well our students are meeting the program learning outcomes. The attachments below describe the detailed data that we have obtained over several years for each major.
Our first priority as an academic department is to ensure that our students are learning the essential content in the field of biology. We use the ETS Major Field Test in Biology to measure the performance of our undergraduates in four major areas of Biology: Cell Biology, Molecular Biology & Genetics, Organismal Biology, and Population Biology, Evolution, & Ecology. From 2016-2021 the overall average score of our graduating seniors has generally been well over the 50th percentile on this nationally normed exam.
Another priority of our department is that our students will participate in the life of the department by involvement in science clubs and/or in various positions of responsibility such as graders, tutors, and teaching assistants. In general, over 80% of our majors are involved in science clubs or department-specific employment.
Since many students struggle with the integration of their Christian faith with science, another priority of our department is that students will develop a rationally defensible integration of science with their faith. In general, over 90% of our graduating seniors are able to write an essay with a strong defensible integration of their faith with science.
Finally, a top priority is that our students should be prepared to gain admittance to graduate programs and science-related careers. We assess these data every five years. In our most recent survey, 88% of our alumni were employed or attending graduate school in a Biology or STEM-related field. In addition, our acceptance rate of students into graduate and health profession’s schools continues to be at least 90%.
The Biology Department examines our assessment data yearly in order to determine if adjustments to our curricula are required. In general, we make major adjustments during program review, and minor adjustments in between program review cycles, as needed.
At our last program review, we determined that we needed to add a Marine Biologist to our faculty and to split a freshman course that was attempting to introduce Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology in one semester into two semester-long courses: Ecological and Evolutionary Systems and Organismal Biology. This change was recommended based on the poor performance of our majors in the sub-categories of Animal Biology and Plant Biology on the ETS Major Field Test in Biology. In contrast, our majors scored well in the other areas of the exam.
After implementing these changes to our curricula, we then discovered that we needed to modify two upper-division courses: BIO3060 (Ecology) and BIO3010 (Botany). Our students were getting a much better background in ecology and plant biology, such that these two upper-division courses no longer needed to teach the background content. We discovered this disconnect via our senior exit interview process. Thus, we significantly changed the content of the upper-division courses. Instead of Botany, we now offer BIO3012 (Applied Plant Science), and instead of Ecology, we now offer BIO3063 (Conservation Ecology), which focuses on conservation and sustainability.
In addition, after hiring a Marine Biologist, we significantly changed the content of all of our Marine Biology courses, as we discovered that they did not reflect how modern Marine Biology is taught. We now offer Introduction to Oceanography, Marine Biology, and Experimental Marine Ecology.
Finally, we also changed the structure of our Biology-BA/BS majors. We decreased the number of required courses, increased the number of electives, and decreased the size of these majors by 2-4 units. These changes were also driven by assessment, as three years of senior exit interviews revealed that many students wanted more choice in their electives, in order to be able to do a minor and/or study abroad. Importantly, the size of these majors is still similar to their size at comparator institutions. Recent senior exit interviews indicate that student satisfaction with these majors is now much higher.