Approved by Faculty Senate.

University Studies Course Approval

Department or Program: Biology

Course Number: BIOL 490

Number of Credits: 3

Course Title: Issues in Biology

Catalog Description: Issues in Biology 3 S.H. A course intended for seniors that promotes student understanding of the interrelated concerns of society and biology. Students will first analyze specific current issues in biology by building a sound scientific foundation of biological information. Next, students will explore the social, ethical and political implications of the issue by developing the arguments and counter-arguments used by opposing positions. Students will write a formal paper documenting at least two opposing views. Students will also defend a position in a formal debate.

This is an existing course that has previously been approved by A2C2: No

This is a new course proposal: Yes.
(If this is a new course proposal, the WSU Curriculum Approval Form must also be completed as in the process prescribed by WSU Regulation 3-4.)

Department contact Person for this course: Steven P. Berg

Email: sberg@winona.edu

A2C2 requires 55 copies of the proposal

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The proposed course is designed to satisfy the requirements in (select one area only):

Course Requirements:

A. Basic Skills:
     1. College Reading and Writing ____
     2. Oral Communication ____
     3. Mathematics ____
     4. Physical Development and Wellness ____

B. Arts & Sciences Core:
     1. Humanities ____
     2. Natural Sciences ____
     3. Social Science ____
     4. Fine & Performing Arts ____
C. Unity and Diversity:
     1. Critical Analysis ____
     2. Science and Social Policy    X  
     3.a. Global Perspectives ____
        b. Multicultural Perspectives ____
     4.a. Contemporary Citizenship ____
        b. Democratic Institutions ____
D. Flagged Courses
     1. Writing ____
     2. Oral ____
     3.a. Mathematics/Statistics ____
        b. Critical analysis ____
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Approval/Disapproval Recommendations

Department Recommendation:  Approved _____         Disapproved _____      Date ___________

Dean's Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

USS Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

A2C2 Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

Faculty Senate Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

Academic Vice President's Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

President's Decision:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

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Material Submitted for Course Approval

Overview of BIOL 490 Issues in Biology: BIOL 490 is designed to help upper division biology majors use their background in biology and their other university and life experiences to deeply explore current controversial issues from the perspectives of science, ethics, history, sociology and political science. At the time of this application, some of the issues ripe for exploration by students are the legality and ethics of arbortion, the use of embryonic stem cells for research, the incorporation of new DNA into human food organisms, HMOs and the quality of health care, energy development of the arctic tundra and the release of wolves in the western United States. This course will be of great value to pre-professional students (eg: pre-meds) who are often asked during their interviews to elaborate their views on these types of issues.

This course will have a topic selection phase, a research phase, a critical analysis phase, a writing phase and an oral presentation phase. Pairs of students will select topics acceptable to the instructor(s). The students will work together to thoroughly investigate their topic from the perspectives of science, ethics, history, sociology and politics. The major disparate positions associated with selected issue will be documented by the students. The students will independently write papers detailing the arguments made by the contrasting positions associated with the issue. The student will also articulate their own position and defend it in their paper. The two students researching the same topic will formally debate the issue in a classroom setting where they will not know which side they will defend until the debate begins. The formal debate will end with an audience participation phase wherein the other students will be encouraged to bring their views to the debate. The students in the audience will be required to write a short summary of the debates presented by their colleagues.

Issues in Biology 490 has been specifically designed to ensure that the students will: bulletdeeply understand the scientific foundation of their selected topic, bulletdeeply understand the social, ethical, historical and political implications associated with their selected topic, bulletdeeply understand and will be able to articulate the need for the integration of scientific methodology and knowledge into the realm of social policy, bulletbe able to evaluate various positions relative to their selected topic and come to a personal position, and bulletbe able to articulate and defend the various positions associated with their selected topic. In addition, as students listen to and participate in the debates of other students they will: bulletbegin to understand the scientific foundation of the other topics, bulletbegin to understand the social, ethical, historical and political implications associated with the other topics, bulletbe reinforced in their ability to understand and articulate the need for the integration of scientific, methodology and knowledge into the realm of social policy, bulletbe reinforced in their ability to evaluate various positions relative to various topics and to come to a personal position, and bulletbe reinforced in their ability to articulate and defend the various positions associated with controversial issues.

Outcomes Grid

 
Topic Selection Phase       X  
Topic Research Phase X X X    
Critical Analyses Phase X X X X X
Writing Phase     X X X
Oral Presentation Phase     X X X



1. Requirements and learning activities that promote students’ abilities to:
understand the scientific foundation of the topic.

This requirement will be directly addressed in the formal paper. Each student will be required to write about the biology of the topic at a level consistent with the content of standard, upper division college biology textbooks.

 

2. Requirements and learning activities that promote students’ abilities to:
understand the social, ethical, historical and/or political implications of the topic.

This outcome will be addressed as students become thoroughly familiar with the major arguments associated with the various perspectives on their selected topic. Students will be required to address these implications in their paper. Understanding of the various perspectives will develop in the students as they read, write and articulate these various implications. Students will find the different perspectives articulated in science news magazines (eg: Science, Science News, etc.) and in popular news magazines (Time, Newsweek, etc.) as well as other sources.

 

3. Requirements and learning activities that promote students’ abilities to:
understand and articulate the need to integrate issues of science with social policy.

The instructor(s) of this course will help students select topics that are associated with strong disparate positions voiced throughout society and the potential for either great harm and/or great good to individuals and to societies. The disparity of the positions, coupled with the great potentials will help students see the critical need of the integration of solid scientific information with social policy as manifest in political action.

 

4. Requirements and learning activities that promote students’ abilities to:
evaluate the various policy options relevant to the social dilemmas posed by the science.

In the critical analysis phase of this course, student will analyze and evaluate the various positions that they have researched. They will identify and articulate as many arguments and counter-arguments as they can for all of the major perspectives related to the issue. They will find the strengths of each position and they will find the weaknesses. The students will become thoroughly fluent with all aspects of the issue and will be able to develop a strong defense of each perspective.

 

5. Requirements and learning activities that promote students’ abilities to:
articulate, choose among and defend various policy and/or scientific options to cope with the challenges created.

This course will require that students students be able to clearly state and defend opposing positions related to their chosen topic. These statements will be made in writing in the formal paper and they will be made verbally during the debate portion of the class. The formal paper will require that each student choose a position and defend it. Hopefully students will discover ambiguity in the different positions and then choose, between shades of gray, a position that they find most defensible. Hopefully, they will remain able to see how others, depending on their frame of reference, might well choose to vigorously defend a very different position.