KABT Study Hall #1 – Grading

We are now scheduling our first ever “KABT Study Hall”? These would be very informal meetings held at a local restaurant or bar. Each session would have a topic on which we could focus our discussion, as well as plenty of time for camaraderie and fellowship. This session’s topic is: grading.

What is the role of grading in the science classroom?

We all know that the grade isn’t the most important thing in a good classroom, but what SHOULD it be? Performance grades, scaffolded assessment, assignment weighting, grade automation, the role of formative feedback, and the list goes on!  Valid grading is a goal with unique complications in the science classroom, and we would like to schedule a time to get together and reflect on our grading practices during the lull in the storm this summer.

We would like schedule it when the greatest number of interested parties can attend, so what dates do/don’t work best? The event will be created in a week or two on Facebook, so please chime in if you’re interested. A simple like on Facebook says, “sweet, I’d come” and a comment here or on Facebook could give feedback on dates. I hope to see you all here in the KC metro/Lawrence area this June!

You’ll want to share this research with students

Check out this post by Jerry Coyne that summarizes research on malarial vector mosquitos.  Easy to understand exp. design, results, graphs and theory–all with potentially profound results.   I think this would make a great discussion focus or wait–maybe a source for a test item.


The paper referenced is here in PLOS One

From the paper:


AP Biology Syllabi (2012 Redesign)

Well we have done it… the AP Biology redesign happened, we taught the new course, and now the exam has come and passed.  We have all survived to teach another year (some of us only barely), and will now begin the process of looking back to see what we can do better.  I think that if we collaborate this process will be much more valuable!

I will link in the original post my syllabus (if I want to see your syllabus I better be willing to share mine, right?), and plan to update it with a couple of replies that contain some of the example documents I find during this summer’s reflection process.  Even though the course is still new, there are some talented people who have already made some valuable documents that can help us all improve.

If anyone has their own thoughts or materials to add please jump into the comments section.  Let’s get a dialogue going!


The experienced readers will notice that my syllabus has many sections that look a lot like Paula Donham’s syllabus from 2008.  When I took the course over from her two years ago I created my syllabus using hers as a template.  The pacing I left general enough to give myself some wiggle room, and found that I was slightly behind schedule (about half a unit at winter break) but that I fairly easily caught back up and finished dead-on pace at the end of the year.  A big part of making our fast pace possible is making the students responsible for their first two exposures to new material.  They have reading guides and a quiz before we ever touch new material in class.  This allows us to focus on application, context, and examples in our class time as well as the many labs we do throughout the year.

I will have more examples up soon, and I hope to see some of you join the conversation and post your syllabus as well.  Everyone knows good science requires many data points.

Recommended Books for Students and Biology Teachers

Camden recently asked for a list of books that might be good for summer reading assignments.  I thought others might find this useful as well so here is a copy of my reply:

One thing you might do is have them check out book reviews on these books (after they have read them—especially the academic reviews)

Here are some books/authors:

Nick Lane’s Books:  Life Ascending;  Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life; and Oxygen, the Molecule that made the World.  Great, great connections written by a scientist.  Connections at all levels.
Neil Shubin’s books:  Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within: A Scientific Adventure.  Both are very good and do a great job showing how theory guides investigation.  Great connections.
Sean Carrol’s Books:  The Making of the Fittest and Endless forms Most Beautiful would work well.  He has two others that will promote the idea of being a scientist and adventure.
Carl Zimmers Books:  All are good but I think that Microcosm is the one of the best at connecting all of life.  Parasite Rex and At the Water’s Edge are great also.
One you might want to check out is Life’s Ratchet by Peter M. Hoffman–probably too much for students.
Marlene Zuk has great books as well—better than some of the more popular books promoted by some of the AP BioTeachers on the forum.  I really think that Riddled with Life should be more widely read.
Matt Ridley’s books are very well done:  I particularly recommend Nature via Nuture and Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 chapters.
Jonathan Weiner has two great books:  Beak of the Finch and Time, Love, and Memory.
I am sure I’ve forgotten some and there are some popular books out there that folks like to assign that I’m not so hot on.  I’ll check my bookshelf at home to see if there some other possibilities.  One of the issues is that there haven’t been a lot of recent books that fit this model.  Neil Shubin’s just came out but most are within the last 10 years and still mostly relevant.

Johnson County Science Cafe

Johnson County Science Cafe’

The Fun Obsession of Observing and Photographing Insects

Speakers: Betsy Betros, recently retired from Johnson County Department of Health and Environment
Date: May 14, 2013

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: Coaches Bar and Grill, 9089 W. 135th Street, one block west of 135th and Antioch, south side of 135th St.

Betsy has had a life-long love of nature and fell in love with insects early in life which ultimately led to a degree in Entomology from Colorado State University. She worked over 35 years in the environmental regulatory field and recently retired. In 2008, she published her first book, “A Photographic Field Guide to the Butterflies of the Kansas City Region.” Betsy will be discussing various aspects of the fun of chasing bugs with a camera and then writing a book on butterflies.

Weather permitting, we will adjourn outside at 8:00 to a backlite screen with a chance to observe and photograph insects. Bring your camera, smart phone, and/or magnifying glass. Betsy will bring copies of her book should you wish to relieve her of one.

For more information: biologycctrack@hotmail.com

Environmental Leadership Institute

The Kansas 4-H Environmental Leadership Institute, a joint project between the Kansas 4-H Foundation, Rock Springs 4-H Center, K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE), is looking for veteran and pre-service teachers to receive high quality environmental education training and serve as facilitators for a week long residential environmental leadership camp for 10-14 year olds this August 3-9.

Participants will receive training and take home Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, Teaming with Insects and Exploring Your Environment, 9 curriculum guides filled with hundred’s of hands-on activities and lessons.  50 professional development hours, lodging and meals at Rock Springs 4-H Center and a $100 stipend are also provided.

Please visit http://www.kacee.org/workshop-schedule to see the flyer for more information and the application instructions.  Applications will be accepted till all spots are filled.  Contact Mandy Kern, Environmental Leadership Institute Coordinator at mkern@rocksprings.net or 620-412-1725 for more information.

Please also encourage your students aged 10-14 to attend the camp August 5-9 at Rock Springs 4-H Center.  Participants will identify aquatic life, test predictions, measure diversity of plants, animals an insects, conserve natural resources, observe ecosystems, cast animal tracks, discover forestry, study animal adaptations, take a night hike, participate in an enviro-quiz bowl and skill-a-thon, learn how to start their own community environmental project and hear from expert guest speakers about the environment.  For more information for campers – visit the 4-H Event Registration page at http://kansas4h.org.


Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) Nominations

To nominate someone for the Kansas OBTA, send the nominee’s name, school, address, phone number (personal), and email address to Harry McDonald, biologycctrack@hotmail.com. Nominations should be received by May 15. Nominees will be sent the necessary application for the award.
Every year, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) program attempts to recognize an outstanding biology educator (grades 7-12 only) in each of the 50 states; Washington, DC; Canada; Puerto Rico; and overseas territories. Candidates for this award do not have to be NABT members, but they must have at least three years of public, private, or parochial school teaching experience. A major portion of the nominee’s career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science, and candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, inventiveness, initiative, and student-teacher relationships. OBTA recipients are special guests at the Honors Luncheon held at the NABT Professional Development Conference, receive microscopes from Leica Microsystems, gift certificates from Carolina Biological Supply Company, and award certificates and complimentary one-year membership from NABT.