Welcome to CourseSource, an open-access journal of peer-reviewed teaching resources for undergraduate biology and physics

We publish articles that are organized around courses in both biological and physics disciplines, and aligned with learning goals established by professional societies representing those disciplines. Please let us know what you think as you explore the articles and other information in the journal. We welcome your comments, questions, and/or suggestions. You can also follow us @CourseSource on Twitter to receive notifications about newly published articles and announcements! Learn more about CourseSource.

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Defining Life: Exploring Creativity, Scientific Discovery, and Biology Core Concepts in a Disciplinary First-Year Seminar

Sofía Macchiavelli-Girón†, Emily R. Caudill†, Cara H. Theisen*

Version: 1.0

Published on 07.2024

This unit, Defining Life, engages students in thinking like scientists, applying creativity to science, and learning biology core concepts as they explore the defining characteristics of life. This unit provides an example of a curriculum designed for a disciplinary first-year seminar that engages aspiring biology majors in thinking like scientists, rather than acquiring detailed content knowledge, as they develop disciplinary ways of thinking and skills that support their transition to college. Defining Life includes a collection of active learning activities that span three areas of emphasis: (i) process of science and experimental design, (ii) biology core concepts connected to characteristics of life, and (iii) STEAM (STEM + Arts). After exploring criteria for being alive, students examine a case study about the discovery of DNA as the hereditary unit of life, learning about the process of science. Next, students participate in several activities focused on the biology core concepts, with an emphasis on the core concepts of Structure and Function, Evolution, and Information Flow, Exchange, and Storage. Then, students are introduced to STEAM and how art and science can be integrated. In the culminating activity, students apply elements from each area of emphasis to create an organism and use the process of science and core concepts to evaluate if the organism is living. Student performance and feedback indicates that students were successful in achieving the learning objectives across each area of emphasis and that students appreciated the engaging activities that allowed them to develop their creativity.

Primary Image: In this image, students are engaging in one of the hands-on activities described in this lesson plan. In groups, students work through their assignments, using whiteboards and other technologies to assist in their learning. 

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Evolution, biology, cell, process of science
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Leveraging Panel Discussions to Promote Positive Representation, Develop Science Identity, and Shift Stereotypes

Mike Quan Huynh, Bellal Naderi, Stephen Ingalls, Audrey Parangan-Smith, Blake Riggs, Laura W. Burrus*

Version: 1.0

Published on 07.2024

The overrepresentation of cis straight white male scientists in examples used in Biology curriculum makes it difficult for students with other axes of diversity (race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, first-generation college-going, socioeconomic status, disability, etc.) to develop their own science identity and sense of belonging. This, in turn, has been shown to have negative impacts on student retention and graduation rates. Previous data from other groups have shown that the use of written Scientist Spotlights shifts students from stereotypical descriptions of scientists to non-stereotypical descriptions. To address the lack of positive representation of scientists from diverse backgrounds, we have created a lesson to bring Scientist Spotlights to life. In this lesson, students get to interact with scientists from diverse backgrounds in either an in-person or synchronous online format. Pre- and post-assessment questions ask students to reflect on what they know about the types of people who do science. By learning about the panelists' personal and scientific backgrounds, students become increasingly aware that people from any background can do science. This knowledge is expected to help build their own science identity and sense of belonging in the scientific community.

Primary Image: Typical biology classroom at San Francisco State University demonstrating the diversity of the student population. The diversity of our students highlights the need for positive role models from diverse backgrounds. This photo shows a typical classroom set up for in-person active learning in the Department of Biology at SF State. Written student consent was obtained to share this photo.

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professional development, Equity, diversity, science identity, sense of belonging, Centering Student Voices, Career Panel, and Inclusion, Positive Representation of Diverse Scientists, Fostering Community Between Students

CourseSource Blog - view more

New Immunology Learning Framework!

December 11, 2023

CourseSource is pleased to announce a new learning framework for Immunology! This framework is endorsed by the Society for Leukocyte Biology (SLB) and is approved for use by ImmunoReach, a Community of Practice focused on interdisciplinary Immunology education. 

This learning framework for undergraduate immunology education was developed as a result of a grassroots effort to address the calls for educational reform noted in the Vision and Change Report (AAAS, 2010). The working group developed a two-part immunology-focused framework that includes concepts and competencies aligned with Vision and Change. This learning framework was developed through an iterative cycle of reviews and revisions, both within the task force and with community feedback. Educators reviewed the document through surveys, focus groups and interviews. The learning outcomes are included as examples, and instructors may adopt them or come up with their own.

Check it out here: https://qubeshub.org/community/groups/coursesource/courses/immunology 

We look forward to seeing your submissions!

 

Publish Your Educational Toxicology Exercises in CourseSource!

August 9, 2022

CourseSource has recently partnered with the Society of Toxicology (SOT), and we are recruiting submissions that utilize the Toxicology Learning Framework to add to the toxicology collection!

Interested in sharing your work? Check out this video recording of the CourseSource workshop held at the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting: Publishing Educational Toxicology Exercises in CourseSource: A Step-by-Step Workshop for Preparing Your Manuscript. This workshop equips educators to use CourseSource and inspires them to submit their inclusive, evidence-based educational resources. In the first part of the workshop, Erin Vinson, the former managing editor of CourseSource, reviews the design of the CourseSource website and its features, and the various types for submissions. In the second part, Lauren Aleksunes (“Repurposing Drugs as Countermeasures for Chemical Weapons: An Interactive Training for Undergraduate Students”), Joshua Gray (“Pick Your Poison: A Semester-Long Toxicology Project Integrating Toxicology Core Concepts and Scientific Communication”), and Mindy Reynolds (“A Case Study Approach to the One Environmental Health Hypothesis”) discuss their curricula and the preparation of CourseSource manuscripts. The last section provides time for participants to prepare their own concepts for submission.

We look forward to seeing your submissions!

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