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Abstract Detail

Teaching Section

Guinel, Frederique [1].

A written assignment to instill research skills into Plant Biology students.

Plants: Form and Function is a 3rd-year course, aimed primarily at Biology majors, that builds on a mandatory 2nd-year course Life on Earth: Plants. For 12 weeks, students attend weekly three lectures and a lab. The course opens with a broad view of plant diversity, with a focus on unusual organs or structures, and ends on case studies. Throughout the term, in lectures and labs, students are exposed to cells, tissues, and organs and are asked to relate form, function, and habitat. A term-long assignment, taking the place of the final examination and worth 45% of the final grade, has been designed to complement the offered materials. Students choose a single structure, and within a 6-page essay, answer 5 questions: What? When? Where? Why? How? I have devised several exercises to guide the students through the stages needed to complete the assignment. First, students find 10 peer-reviewed references on their chosen structure and write an annotated bibliography in which each reference is assessed for its relevance to the topic and its usefulness for the essay. The bibliography ensures that each student has chosen a non-obscure but well-researched structure. Second, students prepare a 5-slide PowerPoint presentation, one slide per question. The exercise helps students focus on each question, organize their thoughts, and streamline the information. The slides, not designed for the class, are corrected to ensure that each student is on the right track. At this stage, I am able to identify misconceptions and possible misinterpretations. Eight weeks into the term, students submit a first draft of their essays, which is subjected to anonymous peer-review via Turnitin. Third, students have a week to critique the drafts submitted by two classmates and another week to revise their own draft. In their revision, students incorporate peer-comments, add further information, and refine thoughts and interpretations. I review these 2nd drafts and focus on scientific content, logic and organization, and the amount of work performed. With my feedback, students work on their final draft. As a last exercise, students prepare an electronic portfolio on their plant structure, where they place items (photographs, video clips, articles) pertaining to their work so that they have an overall view of their achievement. Students acknowledge that this course is work-intensive, but highly valuable, as it teaches them many skills required in other senior courses. They feel engaged in research and are proud of the work they achieved.

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1 - Wilfrid Laurier University, Biology, 75 University Avenue W, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3C5, Canada

research skills
writing assignment
form and function

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 39
Location: Delaware A/Hyatt
Date: Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Time: 1:45 PM
Number: 39002
Abstract ID:751

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