Navigating from Vision to Change: Curriculum Assessment in University of Washington’s Department of Biology Abstract

The report Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education (AAAS, 2011) has outlined a set of core concepts that are intended to guide undergraduate biology education: (1) evolution, (2) structure and function, (3) information flow, exchange, and storage, (4) pathways and transformations of energy and matter, and (5) systems. The Department of Biology at the University of Washington is committed to establishing a core set of learning goals aligned with Vision and Change and creating an assessment that can monitor undergraduate biology majors’ understanding of these learning goals as they progress through the curriculum. We have begun this process by conducting a series of faculty interviews to create an initial set of learning goals. Using a Likert-scale online survey, faculty were asked to rate the relative importance of these faculty-derived learning goals and the Vision and Change core concepts. We found strong agreement between the faculty interviews and the more widespread faculty survey: faculty rated all of the learning goals to be moderately important or higher. Importantly, we found that faculty rated all of the Vision and Change core concepts as very important or higher. In order to delineate what these general core concepts mean for sub-disciplines of biology, we formed faculty discussion groups for ecology/evolution, physiology/neuroscience, and molecular/cellular biology. These groups independently identified how the core concepts of Vision and Change could be translated to specific topics in their sub-discipline of biology, from which a master framework was generated and was agreed upon by the department as a whole. Using this framework, we plan on developing a curriculum assessment closely aligned with Vision and Change that will be used to track the progression of biology majors through the biology curriculum at the University of Washington.