Fundamentals of Biology II

Fundamentals of Biology II (LIFE 121) is the second course in the required introductory sequence for all life sciences majors across campus. The course prepares students for upper level courses in the life sciences by exposing them to conceptual thinking in the topics of evolution, tree of life, plant & animal physiology, and ecology. This course satisfies the ACE 4 learning outcome.

LIFE 121 Consensus Syllabus Across All Sections

A consensus syllabus is available here which lists the topics included by all instructors regardless of instructor. This fascilitates communication across the university curriculum, especially to courses for which LIFE 121 is a prerequist. It may also help communicate topics to other instutions in terms of formal course transfer or general course allignment.

cover of Campbell Biology In Focus, second edition

Brassil Section

Chad Brassil lecturing

Specific to my section, I teach the course using a "flipped" classroom approach. Each day before class students are expected to read a section(s) from the text, watch pre-class videos providing an overview of that material, and complete online homework. Our physical in-class time consists of working through practice questions individually and in teams. This is interspersed with short mini-lectures in response to student needs. Learning objectives explicitly communicate what students are expected to do or know from each section in the text. Learning objectives structure our in-class time through to the structure of the exams. A recent syllabus of my section of the course provides more details along with a list of learning objectives. For the adventurous or curious, my RateMyProfessor page is here.

Brassil Grade Distribution

Grades communicate the achievement level of a student in a given course to multiple different stakeholders, including the student, scholarship administrators, and future employers or advanced degree programs. The distribution of grades across all students in a given course is the result of the course expectations, learning facilitation, incoming student preparation, and student effort. I earnestly want all of my students to achieve at the highest level and for all of my students to earn top grades in the course. However, the reality is that not all students in a large-enrollment course achieve that level, especially in the context of busy semester of their other courses, personal lives, jobs, and activites. The other reality is that faculty set expectations and use learning/teaching strategies based on the students at their institution, communication among colleagues nationally, and implicit or explicit expectations of grade distributions.

In attempt to shine on light on those expectations, I am posting my recent grade distributions in LIFE 121. These are generally consistent with other publicly available grade distributions in introductory biology courses at University of Wisconsin (choose a semester from the drop-down; then search the pdf for "Introductory Biology"; the equivalent course is 152), University of Missouri (search for Course Subject BIOS_SC and Course Number 1500), Indiana University, and Texas A&M (under Grade Distributions for College choose Science, then scroll down to BIOL-112).

Each bar represents a semester, aggregated across the grades indicated.