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  The Journal of Effective Teaching
an online journal devoted to teaching excellence


Journal of Effective Teaching, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2009  

Pai, A. (2009). Evolution in Action, a Case Study Based Advanced Biology Class at Spelman College. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 9(2), 54-68. [Full Text]


The Biology department at Spelman, a historically black women’s college has undertaken a major curriculum revision in the last few years. A primary goal of this revision is to increase the breadth of topics in biology classes. Historically, classes in the areas of ecology and evolution have been underrepresented whereas Spelman has always offered classes in the areas of organismal, molecular, and cellular biology. As a part of this curriculum change, I developed the very first Evolutionary Biology class at Spelman. To maximize student interest in evolutionary biology, I attempted to tailor the class to the student population at Spelman. Specifically, because the majority of Spelman students aspire to be health professionals, the course was designed to teach concepts in evolutionary biology using emerging infectious disease as case studies. I surveyed three parameters to gauge if this class was successful. First, I measured student interest in the various assignments of this class. Second, I gave pre- and post- class tests to the students to measure gains in course content knowledge. Third, I examined the data from college administered student evaluations of this class. I found that 1) students showed a high appreciation for case study activities, 2) students’ content knowledge improved significantly over the semester, and 3) students perceived their learning experiences in this case study based class to be dramatically better than in the traditional lecture based classes.


Keywords: Evolution, biology, case study teaching, curriculum revision.