HURNEY, Carol A; BABCOCK, Sharon K; PESCE, Andrea; James Madison University; James Madison University; James Madison University: A Novel, Integrative Approach to Introductory Biology

Recent curriculum reform at JMU resulted in the implementation of four introductory courses focused on (1) Fundamental Processes of Organisms , (2) Evolution and Ecology, (3) Cell and Molecular Biology, and (4) Genetics and Development. The first course, Organisms, is a structure - function exploration of the processes essential for life. We introduce students to the principles and techniques of comparative biology focusing on the differences and transitions among fundamental levels in organismal design, e.g. , prokaryote vs. eukaryote, unicellular vs. multicellular, plant vs. animal, and aquatic vs. terrestrial. In addition, we explore the evolutionary timeline and phylogeny of organisms within the context of each life process (acquiring and utilizing nutrients, growth and reproduction, responding to environmental stimuli, and maintaining a stable internal environment). Laboratory experiences complement topics covered in lecture but do not replicate the lecture. Many laboratories involve inquiry-based activities that extend the studentsí capacity to think critically as they learn to apply the scientific process rather than follow a prescribed recipe or protocol. Laboratory experiences highlight principles of comparative biology by allowing students to create phylogenetic hypotheses, analyze plant growth and development, and explore structure and function of a variety of animal systems. The hypothesis testing, investigative format of laboratories prepares students for subsequent courses in the introductory curriculum and offers them hands-on experience and personal insight into scientific research.