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Please keep me informed about the bio issue. My boys have apologia bio in 8th grade and then move to Campbell's in 9th. So, I'd LOVE to know what is "wrong" with that picture.

 

We spent the weekend at U Roc with middle son, so I have more answers about what his college prof feels is "wrong" with high school Bio... ;)

 

Essentially, U Rochester is a research school and all profs do research. When one is doing research, there isn't a book in the world that can keep up with the latest "correct" info that is out there and many books are "dumbed down" so the average person (non-researcher) can understand them.

 

This prof hasn't seen an intro Bio book he likes because they are all outdated and/or dumbed down. He feels ALL intro Bio books aimed at the college freshman are just high school level books (including AP) and isn't fond of AP in general because most students coming from it have just learned to memorize and parrot info. He wants students to think and understand concepts. He does have facts that need memorizing (names, dimensions, etc), but will give a list of, say, 35, and only put one of them on the test. A good part of the test includes situations for which he wants drawings or explanations. If you don't know the answer to a situation, putting down how you would find the answer can also get you full points (and that "find" isn't in a book!).

 

It's an interesting situation and totally aimed at the future researcher. (Remember 78% of students who go to this school get involved in research - not all of them Bio, of course.) Many students do not like this prof as they are used to simply memorizing, then parroting and getting their A. Doing so won't fail this guy's tests, but it won't get them an A either. My guy now loves this prof, but does admit you have to know how he thinks. He got 103% on the first test and has another coming up this Thursday. We'll see how it goes.

 

A couple of specific examples with things this guy considers "wrong" are "messenger DNA" (not a good name nor description of what it is) and bonding energies (vague and not explained well in texts).

 

An interesting side is that we have a teacher at school who also teaches at our local cc and has argued with me that ALL college intro bio classes are the exact same from his cc class to Ivies. I've tried disputing that with him, but he is adamant that Bio is Bio and you simply can't diverge from that fact. I took him a copy of middle son's first test answer key. He looked at it for a mere few seconds and started arguing, "Why are they asking that? (regarding dimensions of molecules and parts) Only someone getting involved in detailed nuclear research is going to need to know that info!" I then tried to mention that this is a research school... and kids are being prepared for that research. He wasn't impressed. I don't know if he'll continue his argument that all Bio classes are the same anymore though. ;)

 

The vast majority of kids in this Bio class come in having had AP from Campbell's text. Middle son told me they did a quick review and sort of a pretest in the first two weeks, but then moved on to new material. A student coming in without AP level work would need to do a bit of extra to be caught up and still learn the new material. It would be tough. U Roc does offer AP credit for Bio, but mainly for non-majors. Some who take the credit, but continue in Bio get placed into Bio 112 instead of Bio 110. My guy tells me that is essentially the same class - just with a different prof. It appeases those who expect credit for AP scores. ;)

 

I hope this answers a few questions you may have had. Both middle son and I absolutely love the school, but it's definitely a school for the research loving student. It's not a school for someone simply wanting "a" degree for box checking to get a job or someone just wanting to learn what is already known vs the cutting edge of unknown.

 

BTW, the same goes for his Chem class, but they use their book more for problems. His Calc class does a lot of "extra" math besides Calc - making sure students have skills (easy for my guy, but some struggle - remember - no graphing calculator and a LOT of variables rather than numbers). His BCS (brain and cognitive science) intro class learns not only about different areas of the brain, but also a bit about the current research going on (and results from it) with those different areas and damage/injuries, etc associated with them.

 

Youngest loved the school too. I just wish we could find a similar school that did a lot with botany and still had a more open curricula. Since he wants tropical and botany, Rochester doesn't really fit. Plus, he might not be able to handle the math... esp coming from our ps.

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My daughter's chem class at Franklin & Marshall is set up the same way. Her first test was half problems to be solved and half explanations on why you solved the problems the way you did. Probably not what you would get at a state U.

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My son is taking intro bio (not general) at our cc, not because we think he needs the information (he learned what we thought he would need for life in the two years of natural history we did at home), but because he is headed into a STEM field and it might be handy to have "bio" on his transcript somewhere, and because he likes chemistry and this first semester of bio is the micro end of things, which he finds interesting and might find useful if he goes into materials. He has been astounded at the things his classmates don't know - how to focus a microscope, how to use a balance, how to do significant figures, etc. His most recent story involved a problem where the students were given a description of an extremely badly designed experiment and asked to list three things that would improve it. It involved asking groups of dog owners about their dogs' behavior. About sixty percent of the class suggested eliminating the data that didn't support the hypothesis as a way of improving the experiment. My son was appalled. We may not have covered the standard high school bio material when we did natural history (why I didn't label it bio), but at least my son can design an experiment. Ug. I am feeling much better about what we did... This isn't a class of the most privileged students in Mass. (those go straight to general bio), but I would guess a good portion of them have taken high school biology. I think the problem, at least at schools where the emphasis is not on just staying alive, is that not enough time is devoted to science in K-12. There is a huge body of information that needs to be learned PLUS a lot of problem-solving PLUS a lot of hands-on material like how to use the measuring equipment. There isn't time to do both and it is a good deal easier to focus on the information than the problem-solving or the hands-on part. If one hasn't time to cover it all, then one tends to do the easy stuff... It is easier to assess that part, also. It probably doesn't help that many elementary school teachers have no idea what real scientists do.

 

For years, I have felt guilty about skipping high school bio and focusing on natural history instead. I've done it anyway because I felt it would be more useful to my children in the long run and because I thought it gave them a better foundation in real science, but I knew they weren't getting the classroom science their schoolmates were getting (hence the cc classes in the last half of high school). Now I am very glad we did it the way we did. The intro cc classes will fill in the classroom piece and (hopefully) the end result will be a student who is ready to take better uni science classes and then work a STEM job. We're not through yet, but it is looking like this is going to work...

 

Nan

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We spent the weekend at U Roc with middle son, so I have more answers about what his college prof feels is "wrong" with high school Bio... ;)

 

Essentially, U Rochester is a research school and all profs do research. When one is doing research, there isn't a book in the world that can keep up with the latest "correct" info that is out there and many books are "dumbed down" so the average person (non-researcher) can understand them.

 

This prof hasn't seen an intro Bio book he likes because they are all outdated and/or dumbed down. He feels ALL intro Bio books aimed at the college freshman are just high school level books (including AP) and isn't fond of AP in general because most students coming from it have just learned to memorize and parrot info. He wants students to think and understand concepts. He does have facts that need memorizing (names, dimensions, etc), but will give a list of, say, 35, and only put one of them on the test. A good part of the test includes situations for which he wants drawings or explanations. If you don't know the answer to a situation, putting down how you would find the answer can also get you full points (and that "find" isn't in a book!).

 

It's an interesting situation and totally aimed at the future researcher. (Remember 78% of students who go to this school get involved in research - not all of them Bio, of course.) Many students do not like this prof as they are used to simply memorizing, then parroting and getting their A. Doing so won't fail this guy's tests, but it won't get them an A either. My guy now loves this prof, but does admit you have to know how he thinks. He got 103% on the first test and has another coming up this Thursday. We'll see how it goes.

 

A couple of specific examples with things this guy considers "wrong" are "messenger DNA" (not a good name nor description of what it is) and bonding energies (vague and not explained well in texts).

 

An interesting side is that we have a teacher at school who also teaches at our local cc and has argued with me that ALL college intro bio classes are the exact same from his cc class to Ivies. I've tried disputing that with him, but he is adamant that Bio is Bio and you simply can't diverge from that fact. I took him a copy of middle son's first test answer key. He looked at it for a mere few seconds and started arguing, "Why are they asking that? (regarding dimensions of molecules and parts) Only someone getting involved in detailed nuclear research is going to need to know that info!" I then tried to mention that this is a research school... and kids are being prepared for that research. He wasn't impressed. I don't know if he'll continue his argument that all Bio classes are the same anymore though. ;)

 

The vast majority of kids in this Bio class come in having had AP from Campbell's text. Middle son told me they did a quick review and sort of a pretest in the first two weeks, but then moved on to new material. A student coming in without AP level work would need to do a bit of extra to be caught up and still learn the new material. It would be tough. U Roc does offer AP credit for Bio, but mainly for non-majors. Some who take the credit, but continue in Bio get placed into Bio 112 instead of Bio 110. My guy tells me that is essentially the same class - just with a different prof. It appeases those who expect credit for AP scores. ;)

 

I hope this answers a few questions you may have had. Both middle son and I absolutely love the school, but it's definitely a school for the research loving student. It's not a school for someone simply wanting "a" degree for box checking to get a job or someone just wanting to learn what is already known vs the cutting edge of unknown.

 

BTW, the same goes for his Chem class, but they use their book more for problems. His Calc class does a lot of "extra" math besides Calc - making sure students have skills (easy for my guy, but some struggle - remember - no graphing calculator and a LOT of variables rather than numbers). His BCS (brain and cognitive science) intro class learns not only about different areas of the brain, but also a bit about the current research going on (and results from it) with those different areas and damage/injuries, etc associated with them.

 

Youngest loved the school too. I just wish we could find a similar school that did a lot with botany and still had a more open curricula. Since he wants tropical and botany, Rochester doesn't really fit. Plus, he might not be able to handle the math... esp coming from our ps.

 

 

Thanks Creekland!!!! I really appreciate that.

 

My middle boy would thrive there. We do a HUGE amount of problem-solving, exploratory science here...the AP books are, well, just for the hoop jumping for A. content coverage and B. scholarship coverage. But, U of R doesn't have the zoological/herpetological research he wants. This is the kid that I always thought would end up at a fairly high ranking private U and make a name for himself. He's a math and science natural. However, he is very, very likely to end up at a Big Ag school or other state uni because that is where this kind of research is going on. Michigan State ranks higher in his major than Cornell! It makes my eyes go :blink: thinking about it.

 

I hope your youngest finds a "U of R" for botany. I know from our search into herpetology/zoology/ecology, these are such narrow/specific/not widely popular majors, that the field of options is rather small by comparison to say our youngest who wants to major in math and astrophysics.

 

Faith

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My daughter's chem class at Franklin & Marshall is set up the same way. Her first test was half problems to be solved and half explanations on why you solved the problems the way you did. Probably not what you would get at a state U.

 

 

I wouldn't assume that. Maybe for non-majors, but for majors it can be quite stiff if the uni is a good one. DD, before switching to nursing, was half way through her degree in chemistry. Her first college chem class was exactly as you describe above. 75% of the class didn't pass. That's the norm. College chem for Chem majors was a weeder class to remove everyone from the major that wasn't going to be cut out for it or those that didn't have enough perseverance to try again.

 

Faith

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My son is taking intro bio (not general) at our cc, not because we think he needs the information (he learned what we thought he would need for life in the two years of natural history we did at home), but because he is headed into a STEM field and it might be handy to have "bio" on his transcript somewhere, and because he likes chemistry and this first semester of bio is the micro end of things, which he finds interesting and might find useful if he goes into materials. He has been astounded at the things his classmates don't know - how to focus a microscope, how to use a balance, how to do significant figures, etc. His most recent story involved a problem where the students were given a description of an extremely badly designed experiment and asked to list three things that would improve it. It involved asking groups of dog owners about their dogs' behavior. About sixty percent of the class suggested eliminating the data that didn't support the hypothesis as a way of improving the experiment. My son was appalled. We may not have covered the standard high school bio material when we did natural history (why I didn't label it bio), but at least my son can design an experiment. Ug. I am feeling much better about what we did... This isn't a class of the most privileged students in Mass. (those go straight to general bio), but I would guess a good portion of them have taken high school biology. I think the problem, at least at schools where the emphasis is not on just staying alive, is that not enough time is devoted to science in K-12. There is a huge body of information that needs to be learned PLUS a lot of problem-solving PLUS a lot of hands-on material like how to use the measuring equipment. There isn't time to do both and it is a good deal easier to focus on the information than the problem-solving or the hands-on part. If one hasn't time to cover it all, then one tends to do the easy stuff... It is easier to assess that part, also. It probably doesn't help that many elementary school teachers have no idea what real scientists do.

 

For years, I have felt guilty about skipping high school bio and focusing on natural history instead. I've done it anyway because I felt it would be more useful to my children in the long run and because I thought it gave them a better foundation in real science, but I knew they weren't getting the classroom science their schoolmates were getting (hence the cc classes in the last half of high school). Now I am very glad we did it the way we did. The intro cc classes will fill in the classroom piece and (hopefully) the end result will be a student who is ready to take better uni science classes and then work a STEM job. We're not through yet, but it is looking like this is going to work...

 

Nan

 

 

I can tell you why it happens at our local school. You can't test that kind of problem solving on the A.C.T. That's the bottom line. The only thing they are willing to teach is whatever is going to be on the multiple choice test. Our local schools still give kids credit for "biology with lab or chemistry with lab" but they only have six lab experiences each year so they can hyper focus on testing. Let me say that "experience' is loosely used here. If you count a demonstration by the teacher or on video, followed by a worksheet with 10 multiple choice questions that can be graded the computer as a lab, then well....okay then.

 

My short foray as a high school chem teacher and school guidance counselor was discouraging to say the very least. When I left the job, the administrator asked me to, in one word, describe the critical thinking skills of the students. The one word that came to mind was Jello. Truly, their brains were kind of amorphous blobs when it came to thinking on any depth about anything. The saddest thing was that he nodded in agreement. His attempts at changing things were for nothing and he's since left the school as well.

 

Sigh....

 

Faith

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My daughter's chem class at Franklin & Marshall is set up the same way. Her first test was half problems to be solved and half explanations on why you solved the problems the way you did. Probably not what you would get at a state U.

 

Franklin & Marshall is well-known for sciences, so having deeper levels there does not surprise me. I wouldn't, however, make the generalization about state schools. The difference (as I see it) is whether the school is assuming the students come in with basic knowledge from high school (knowing terms, etc) and are ready to use them to delve deeper or whether the school is assuming they need to teach the foundations. IME, community colleges and lower level schools - or those not specializing in a field - do the latter. Research and higher level schools tend to do the former. Some schools may offer both types of classes (one for majors and one for common knowledge). There are many top notch state schools who are heavy into research and there are some "other" state (and private) schools which focus on other things.

 

Knowing there is a difference and finding the appropriate fit is key to our job as guidance counselors.

 

One example from the test:

 

Outline or draw how you would determine the number of ATP-myosin complexes that are present in equilibrium given starting concentrations of one mole of ATP and one mole of myosin complex in water at 25 degrees C. Use no more than 4 steps.

 

A typical Bio 101 class explains what ATP and myosin complexes are and might have to explain equilibrium and moles too. They may even have test questions assessing if that knowledge is known. In this class it's assumed one knows that info (so more to be learned if the student doesn't know it), then asks the question above for the test.

 

It IS important to come in with a good working knowledge of the vocab, but the "college" part for UR (and similar schools) is learning to use it.

 

He has been astounded at the things his classmates don't know - how to focus a microscope, how to use a balance, how to do significant figures, etc. His most recent story involved a problem where the students were given a description of an extremely badly designed experiment and asked to list three things that would improve it. It involved asking groups of dog owners about their dogs' behavior. About sixty percent of the class suggested eliminating the data that didn't support the hypothesis as a way of improving the experiment.

 

YIKES! Yes, these things should be known from college prep high school - esp if headed toward a top U or college.

 

It probably doesn't help that many elementary school teachers have no idea what real scientists do.

 

Unfortunately, that doesn't stop after elementary school...

 

The intro cc classes will fill in the classroom piece and (hopefully) the end result will be a student who is ready to take better uni science classes and then work a STEM job. We're not through yet, but it is looking like this is going to work...

 

Nan

 

Yes, I don't want to imply kids don't need the foundations - the vocab, etc. They do. But then they also want them to be able to use the knowledge through independent thoughts. I think you're doing a good job of providing both.

 

My short foray as a high school chem teacher and school guidance counselor was discouraging to say the very least. When I left the job, the administrator asked me to, in one word, describe the critical thinking skills of the students. The one word that came to mind was Jello. Truly, their brains were kind of amorphous blobs when it came to thinking on any depth about anything. The saddest thing was that he nodded in agreement. His attempts at changing things were for nothing and he's since left the school as well.

 

Sigh....

 

Faith

 

This comes to mind for me too. It's sad. Our schools are mainly set up to cram info like data with no realization that one can actually USE the info.

 

This is what the prof is trying to get his really talented students to figure out. Future researchers will need to be able to think outside the box using info they have at hand.

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Just as a side note, the AP Bio exam was rewritten because it had become a mega-memorization exam. Theoretically, it is now supposed to have more procedure/problem solving kinds of questions. My experience was with the old test so I do not know if the goal was achieved.

 

That said, my biologist friends have noted that the most important skill to cultivate among our younger students is that of observation. There is such an emphasis on finding The Answer in high school that students do not take the time to observe. Reducing science to multiple choice tests does not help.

 

Rant over. Carry on. ;)

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Just as a side note, the AP Bio exam was rewritten because it had become a mega-memorization exam. Theoretically, it is now supposed to have more procedure/problem solving kinds of questions. My experience was with the old test so I do not know if the goal was achieved.

 

That said, my biologist friends have noted that the most important skill to cultivate among our younger students is that of observation. There is such an emphasis on finding The Answer in high school that students do not take the time to observe. Reducing science to multiple choice tests does not help.

 

Rant over. Carry on. ;)

 

Not being a Bio person myself (aside from my 5 on the AP test eons ago) I'm just enjoying gleaning the info from middle son. Around here (my ps) all I've heard for years is that we prepare our students well for all levels of college. Then I've seen the results which don't seem to match their statement. I've talked with teachers who have insisted all college classes are the same (and seen that advocated by some on here too).

 

And now, I'm seeing what the difference can be - and more or less reporting on it. Today, at lunch, I showed a couple other Bio teachers the test... they were impressed and couldn't believe it was an "intro" Bio test at his college. It is though. There is no lower Bio class offered at his school.

 

I provided the books for middle son to learn high school Bio. Those books included Apologia (both books) and Campbell's Biology (the AP book). He feels they prepared him well FWIW. BUT, we also taught him to think, to analyze, to observe, and to adapt. It's the combo of skills that is working now I believe.

 

What he is encountering now is NOT what he would have encountered at a lesser school. It is probably very similar to what he would encounter at any similar level research/science school.

 

If one wants only "basic" science knowledge, then AP for credits will work (and then delve into subjects they want to major in). If one wants the cutting edge of top research, don't expect to get there from lower level colleges (like community colleges - unless used to form the foundations for knowledge aka college prep) or colleges which only focus on "learning" and not research.

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