Biology Research Lesson Report

 

 

Lesson Title/Topic: Human Populations

Course: General Biology (BIO 105)

Department/Discipline:  Biology

Instructor(s) Observed:  Deb Hanmer

Team Members:  Cooper, Galbraith, Gerber, Hanmer, Sutherland

 

BACKGROUND

Course, Student Population, Classroom Setting

 

Briefly describe the nature of the course, its objectives, and its place in the curriculum.

 

General Biology is an entry-level course for science majors.  It is designed to give students a background in the fundamental concepts in biology and to prepare them for upper level courses.  We focus on problem-solving skills and the ability to interpret biological data and form models based upon the theories discussed in lecture.

 

Talk about where the lesson fits into the course, discussing any previous lessons related to the research lesson.

 

The lesson on Populations is at the end of the course.  In this lesson, we try to tie together concepts we have discussed earlier in the course.  In addition to understanding the principles that impact human population growth, we also want students to discover for themselves that human population growth has a negative impact on the environment, human health and quality of life.

 

Describe general characteristics of the student population, including any relevant differences among students, in terms of background and preparation for the research lesson. Indicate the class size as well as the learning environment (e.g. networked computer classroom, lecture hall, etc.).

 

The student population is very diverse, some have not had biology since 10th grade, others have taken AP biology.  All have had experience in this course with the type of exercise in the research lesson.  The class we tested the research lesson in had 110 students in a large lecture hall.  It was held from 12:40 to 2:05.

 

 

 

RESEARCH LESSON

Student Learning Goal, Lesson Design, Rationale

 

Identify the student-learning goal (or goals) of the research lesson.

 

We want students to discover for themselves that human population growth has a negative impact on the environment, human health and quality of life.

 

Students are bombarded with messages from 5th grade about how humans have a negative impact on the environment.  By the time they reach college and we lecture to them on the topic again, you can literally see their brains shut off.   Students in the US are also isolated from many environmental and health issues that are current problems in much of the world.  This can lead to the perception that overpopulation is not a problem because nothing bad has happened yet.

 

Most of the damage to the environment can be traced directly to human overpopulation.  We want the students to collect and discuss data relevant to this issue and draw their own conclusions. We want students to be able describe how human population levels and consumption impact the environment.

 

Describe the design of the lesson (e.g., the parts, the sequence, how it unfolds, etc).

 

The lesson was be centered around “The Parasitologist’s Dilemma”.  A dilemma facing researchers and health care providers in developing countries is the balance between overpopulation and disease.  When an effective treatment for a disease is found, it invariably leads to an increase in population, which in turn decreases the quality of life for that population, and a decrease in environmental quality.  The alternative is to let nature run its course and keep populations in check through disease and starvation.

 

Students were assigned a variable to research related to human populations in the United States, France and Tanzania.  They prepared a powerpoint slide containing the data from these three countries and a statement summarizing the impact of any difference on population growth.  These were then projected in class, where the students compared all of the variables to answer some specific discussion questions.

 

Provide a detailed outline of the lesson sequence including student learning activities and instructional activities.

  1. Background preparation. Students learned about “models” during the semester.
  2. Prior to the Research Lesson class period. We compared several environmental and population statistics between the United States, France and Tanzania. Groups of students were given a specific topic to research, several groups were given the same topic (see table on page 7 for a complete list). 
  3. Outside of class.  The groups of students researched their topic (using links provided on page 9) and prepared a single powerpoint slide (a “digital poster”, based on the instructions and example on page 10).  The slide contained the data for the three countries on the assigned variable, and a brief summary statement discussing the impact of any differences on population growth in that country.  These were submitted to the instructor the day before the Research Lesson class period.
  4. Day before the Research Lesson class period.  The instructor chose the best of the “digital posters” to present in class, ideally one for each topic (two examples are shown on page 11).
  5. Research Lesson class period.  The instructor presented some background information on the three countries and then presented the selected student “digital posters”.  For each variable the students needed to explain what they predicted the impact would be on the population level, quality of life, and the environment.
  6. Research Lesson class period.  The instructor presented some specific questions for the class to discuss, which highlighted the link between medicine, population growth and the environment.

Estimate the amount of time for each segment of the lesson.

 

  1. NA
  2. 5 minutes to assign groups topics
  3. Up to 1 hour out of class to research topic and prepare powerpoint slide
  4. About an hour of instructor time to put the slides together into one file
  5. 20 minutes to present and discuss data slides
  6. 40-60 min to present specific questions to groups, give them time to discuss their answers and then share them with the class.

 

Explain how and why the lesson is intended to influence student learning, thinking, and engagement.   Explain the thinking that went into selecting and organizing lesson content, activities, etc.  (I lumped these, they essentially ask the same thing)

Students are bombarded with messages from 5th grade about how humans have a negative impact on the environment.  By the time they reach college and we lecture to them on the topic again, you can literally see their brains shut off.   Students in the US are also isolated from many environmental and health issues that are current problems in much of the world.  This can lead to the perception that overpopulation is not a problem because nothing bad has happened yet.

Most of the damage to the environment can be traced directly to human overpopulation.  We want the students to collect and discuss data relevant to this issue and draw their own conclusions.  We want students to discover for themselves that human population growth has a negative impact on the environment, human health and quality of life.

Refer to any theoretical or empirical work that influenced your lesson design, citing relevant literature (if used).

 

None, sorry.  We designed it mostly based upon our experience using active learning in large classes.  It is essentially a “collect-and-project” module, but gives the students time to do the data analysis outside of class.  Of course there is the seminal work by Cooper, Hanmer, and Cerbin (S.T. Cooper, W.J. Cerbin, D.J. Hanmer.  Problem Solving Modules in Large Introductory Biology Lectures Enhance Student Understanding.  North American Biology Teacher.  2004).

 

 

FINDINGS

Approach, Results

 

Briefly describe what kinds of evidence were collected before, during and after the lesson.

 

Before the lesson, we collected the students Powerpoint slides (examples on page 11).  These gave us a glimpse of what the students thought were important variables in population growth.  Good posters attempted to report the data as a graph or table, very few included text comparing the values.  In the next iteration we are going to require some analysis of the data on the slide.  Weak posters just gave a list of numbers.

 

We observed student responses during the class, but did not formally collect data.  We didn’t collect evidence after the lesson, we weren’t that far along in the development of the module.  In a different section, we asked students whether or not they would cure malaria, and what else they would do at the same time.

 

Report major results related to student learning and involvement (e.g., student engagement, types of thinking, attitudes, motivation, social behaviors, etc.)

 

Overall students were engaged when they were looking at other student data and observations, but tuned out when the professor began to lecture about some of the impacts of population on global ecosystems.  There was very little discussion, mostly a handful of students volunteering an answer.  Discussion is very difficult in a lecture hall setting though.  We were not able to single out any individual discussions between groups.

 

Motivation was an issue, and we hope to make the topic more relevant and interesting for the students by focusing on a broader range of infectious diseases next time, not just malaria.  This was based on observing the students during class, when they were paying attention, and when they were chatting with their neighbors.  We don’t have evidence to explain why they were less motivated at certain parts of the module.  We will need to collect that information.

 

Explain how findings relate to the learning goal(s) of the lesson.

 

We don’t have firm evidence of the effectiveness of the lesson.  We have circumstantial observations that the students were more engaged, and could reason through the evidence linking global population, consumption and environmental impact. 

 

Discuss any unexpected results.

 

Some of the data that we found very interesting bored the students.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Effectiveness of Lesson, Remaining Questions

 

Reflect on the extent to which the lesson worked, meeting expectations and intended goals.

 

We were pleased with the model of having students collect and analyze data out of class, and share it by projecting powerpoint slides in lecture.  We would like to integrate this into some other units in the class. 

 

Evaluate the effectiveness of the lesson (successes as well as areas for improvement).

 

The lesson appeared to be effective in getting students to at least look at and think about the data relevant to populations, consumption and impact on the environment.  Without a good measure of how they felt on the issue coming into class, it is difficult to know if the module changed anyone’s opinions.  Students seemed to be more engaged (at least they weren’t asleep), and we went into some topics in much greater detail than we did before.  Comparing 20 variables in 3 different countries gave us a lot of different questions we could address in class.  While complex, we feel it gave students some idea of the magnitude of the issues facing scientists studying public health and the environment on a global level.

 

Discuss how the lesson might be modified to improve its effectiveness.  Identify possible ways to improve the approach to studying the lesson.

 

We need to add formal pre- and post-assessment and collect some of the formative assessment observations.  We also need to modify the content to make it grab student interest more.  They just don’t care about people dying of malaria in Tanzania, or the impact of human population on the environment.  This is probably the most disheartening result of the lesson.

 

Specify any remaining questions about the lesson and its effectiveness.

 

We need to determine whether or not the module lets students to discover for themselves that human population growth has a negative impact on the environment, human health and quality of life.  This could be done with pre and post-module essay and multiple choice questions, this will be the focus of our lesson study project for the next semester.


Table indicating the specific variables assigned to students.  Groups of students looked up these values for the three countries indicated and turned in a powerpoint slide with this information.  Students were given this table in class to fill out based upon the powerpoint slides prepared by fellow students and presented by the instructor in class.  The students then discussed the impact of curing malaria on that variable, and if this would affect population or quality of life in that country.

 

 

 

 

Impact on ____ if you cure malaria or CHD

Variable

Tanzania

France

USA

Population (N)

Quality of Life

Pop. Pyramid

 

 

 

 

 

 

N, r, and G

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life expectancy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids/woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infant Mortality

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult Mortality

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contraceptive use

 

 

 

 

 

Immigration Emigration

 

 

 

 

 

Ecological footprint

 

 

 

 

 

Water supply amt./quality

 

 

 

 

 

Population density

 

 

 

 

 

% Arable land

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildness

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual health care $ per person

 

 

 

 

 

Literacy Rate

 

 

 

 

 

 

GDP/capita and pop below poverty

 

 

 

 

 


Table for the Instructor to reference with the correct values (2003) filled in.

 

 

 

 

Impact on ____ if you cure malaria or CHD

Variable

Tanzania

France

USA

Population (N)

Quality of Life

Pop. Pyramid

 

Grow

Decrease

Stable

 

 

N, r, and G

 

36 M, 3%, 1M

60M, 0.4%, 0.2M

290M, 1.1%, 3M

 

 

Life expectancy

 

44

79

77

 

 

Kids/woman

 

5.5

1.7

2.2

 

 

Infant Mortality

 

104

4

7

 

 

Adult Mortality

 

526

97

113

 

 

Contraceptive use

25%

82%

75%

 

 

Immigration Emigration

-4.9 / 1000

0.67 / 1000

3.5 / 1000

 

 

Ecological footprint

1.0

7.3

12.2

 

 

Water supply

1000 m3/person

2.5

3

15

 

 

Population density

40

110

31

 

 

% Arable land

 

4%

33%

19%

 

 

Wildness

 

9.3%

0.04%

36%

 

 

Annual health care $ per person

$27

$2,335

$4,500

 

 

Literacy Rate

 

78%

99%

97%

 

 

GDP/capita and pop below poverty

$630

36%

$25,000

6.4%

$37,000

12%

 

 


 

 

Links given to students to find data on their assigned variables.

Variable

Web link

Pop. Pyramid

http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbpyr.html

N, r, and G

http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbsum.html

Life expectancy

http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbsum.html http://www.who.int/country/en/

Kids/woman

http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbsum.html

Infant Mortality

http://www.who.int/country/en/

Adult Mortality

http://www.who.int/country/en/

Contraceptive use

http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbprint.html (055 Prevalence of contraceptives)

Immigration Emigration

http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbagg.html (008 vital rates)

Ecological footprint

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/env_eco_foo&int=-1

Water supply amt./quality

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/hea_wat_ava&int=-1&id=fr&id=tz&id=us  

Population density

http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbagg.html (001 density)

Land use

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html 

Wildness

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/env_wil&int=-1

Annual health care $ per person

http://www.who.int/country/en/

Literacy Rate

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html

GDP per capita and population below poverty line

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html

 

 


Assignment given to students in class

 

 

Sample slide shown to students

 

 

 


Examples of student posters