Course Catalog Information
Biological Sciences (BIO_SC)
General Ecology - Writing Intensive
Principles of populations, coevolution, density factors, competition; physical environment; concept of community, trophic structure, biotic succession; characterization of biomes, man in ecosystem. Biology majors having completed BIO_SC 3100: 2 hours credit.
Lecture/Standard with Laboratory
A-F (allow student to choose S/U option)
10 hours in Biology.
Tenure Line Assistant Professor
226 Tucker Hall
Yes, in the last five years
The Campus Writing Program conducts a two-day faculty workshop to assist with the design and implementation of your writing intensive course. Once your course proposal has been approved by the Campus Writing Program, you will receive information on time, date and location of the workshop.
Indicate below if additional instructors are planned, but specific individuals have not yet been chosen. Check all that apply
Honors Course Information
Answer the questions below as they would apply to one section. For all other sections, provide similar information in the Additional Sections Information box below.
Writing Intensive Course Information
This course explores the factors that influence the interactions of organisms with each other and the environment. In doing so, it explores the biological principles of populations, coevolution, density factors, competition, physical environment, as well as the concepts of community, trophic structure, biotic succession, characterization of biomes, and man in the ecosystem. It includes both lecture and laboratory components and writing assignments are included in both. Many of the labs are field based.
1) The first writing assignment is to write an abstract for a paper they read in preparation for a lab. The abstract has been removed, and they are given instructions as to how to write an abstract by their TA. The purpose of this first assignment is to assess their writing skills and to present an example of a scientific paper for them to emulate throughout the semester.
2) A writing question is included on the final exam. Students have one full page to present an argument for or against a contemporary issue in ecology (examples: We should/should not be cloning endangered species or using cornbased ethanol for gasoline). The purpose of this is to reinforce the writing skills learned in the class. There is only one draft possible and the instructor grades this herself, basing the grade entirely on the quality of student writing and their use of correct essay structure [introduction with thesis sentence, body paragraphs (with topic sentences) to support the thesis, conclusion based on the evidence presented in body paragraphs] rather than on the opinion presented.
Should this course be considered for funding?
Large Enrollment Courses:
The class is taught in a lecture format with a weekly lab. The instructor teaches the lecture and the GTAs lead the field exercises and lab analyses. Writing assignments are included in both the lecture and lab components, but all are graded by the GTAs.
Writing assignments are included in both the lecture and lab components, but all are graded by the GTAs.
See the above question regarding training for how I will ensure that they are trained and that they will grade as I would grade. For each assignment, I ask each TA for their two "best" and two "worst" essays or lab reports. I read thru them and note the nature of feedback each GTA is giving students, and work with the GTA if it is of the quality I expect. Beginning with the first graded assignment, I test for differences in grades among the lab sections and ask to see the assignments before they are turned back to the students if I see significant differences. I test for correlations between lecture exam grades (assigned by the instructor) and writing grades. If I see that any GTA's lab scores are not correlated with the exam scores or differ significantly from those of the other lab sections, I review all student assignments (writing and otherwise) graded by that TA.
Two scientific essays
Two scientific essays: These are 5 page papers on a topic chosen by the student within two broad categories: Ecosystems and the Environment, Populations and Communities. Students must find and use 5 publications from the primary literature to support their discussion of the topic. The purpose of these assignments is for students to learn how to develop and present a scientific argument, use the primary literature to support that argument, and improve their writing after receiving suggestions through peer review and feedback from the instructor and teaching assistant. Each essay has 2 required drafts: Students prepare a preliminary draft, which is peer reviewed in class and revised. The resulting first draft is graded by their teaching assistant and returned for revision. The final draft is graded again by their teaching assistant.
Length of assignment:
Two formal laboratory reports
Two formal laboratory reports: These are 5 page papers written in the format of a research article reporting the results of two major lab assignments: Prairie Fire Ecology and Forest Measures. Students conduct the research to generate the data with their lab group but must write their reports independently. The purpose of these assignments is for students to experience the scientific process from the development of hypotheses to the analysis and writing of the results. Students discuss the development of hypotheses and gather data as a group, then learn to analyze their data and present/illustrate their results. Each report has 2 required drafts: Students prepare a first draft, which is graded by their teaching assistant and returned for revision. The final draft is graded again by their teaching assistant.
Length of assignment:
Writing Intensive Teaching
Instructor provided feedback
See assignment descriptions for details on how students will receive feedback and engage with revision on the assignments.
The scientific essays do not have a single acceptable interpretation, explanation, analysis or evaluation. They are individual in nature, and require the student to read papers from the primary literature and develop and present a scientific argument. There are no right or wrong answers, only poorly or well-supported arguments.
The abstract is due in week 2. The essays are due during weeks 4 and 10, with revisions due in weeks 6 and 12. The lab reports are due in weeks 7 and 11, with revisions due in weeks 9 and 13. The final exam question is given in advance, but is written during the final exam.
I recruit GTAs during the spring before this class. When possible, I recruit advanced graduate students with experience in teaching. All of them are required by me to take the Writing Intensive training course in the fall (unless they have taught the class with me before), which I attend with them if possible. We meet weekly to discuss the coming lab assignments, to discuss and standardize rubrics for grading of all assignments, and to clarify the expectations for all assignments (writing and non-writing). I provide examples of writing assignments from previous classes (with permission) to illustrate my expectations. Prior to grading the first writing assignment, we all read and grade several student papers, then discuss both the papers and our scores to do our best to standardize grading procedures.