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How should I study for this course?
What happens if I miss class?
Do I really need the textbook?
What if I forget my clicker?
How can I find my grades? What if I find an error in my grades?
Can I get class notes?  Do I have to take notes?
I forgot to bring my homework with me to class - can I still turn it in for credit?


How should I study for this course?

Unfortunately, there is no “right” answer here - every student needs to figure this out for him or herself. Part of the learning process is better understanding the study methods that work for you and that support your style of thinking and learning. I can, however, tell you what doesn't work:

  • flashcards.  Flashcards are great for learning new jargon and unfamiliar terms, but this is not how you'll be tested in this class.  You will be expected to use proper biological language throughout the course - so if the flashcards help you with this, then by all means, use them.   However, if this is the only tool you use for studying for the quizzes and exams, you will likely be disappointed.
  • highlighting relevant text in your textbook and re-reading. See my explanation for flashcards - the same reasoning applies here.
  • relying exclusively on the notes posted in D2L. Definitely use these to help remind you of what we did in class and to review key ideas, images, discussions. The notes are intended for support, but they do not represent everything that happened in class

Below are some of the study methods that students have told me worked for them:

  • studying in groups. The most effective groups incorporate regular time out of class to study. They use the notes as a way to "re-create" the class and quiz each other. They invest their time on the the elements that they feel they need to practice. By asking each other questions, they confirm what they do know and reveal the places in their thinking that still need work.
  • be there! Honestly, the single most important thing you can do to improve your chances of doing well is to come to class. We use class time to practice the things you will see on your quizzes and exams. If you're not there, you will miss out on the questions and feedback that can help you do well. Note: "being there" means in mind as well as body! If you’re texting friends, snoozing, or checking out Facebook, you’re probably not engaged in what’s happening around you and will miss out on critical information. Worse, you will likely become a distraction for your classmates who are trying to use class time to learn. I promise - it's really more efficient overall if you use your class time to do as much of the learning as you. The time you save in not struggling on your own later can be used to surf to your heart's content!
  • regular and iterative studying. Cramming for an exam the night before is a well-exercised strategy for many college students - I have used it myself! Sometimes it can work – especially if the task is largely memorization and you only need to retain the material for a short time. However, that's the opposite of what we're going for in this class. We want you to understand concepts and master certain thinking skills - not just for a while, but for forever. Think sports here - some are gifted and will make the free throw every time. Most of us, however, need to practice before we can master any skill worth acquiring. And the last time I watched an NBA game, it looked to me that even the pros don't sink the shot every time - they still need to practice!
  • get help! We build groups into the course so that you have each other as your first line of defense, but you don't need to limit yourself there. In prior years, students have self-organized designated study times and locations to work with classmates. We have amazing undergrad learning assistants who are more than willing to work with you. And don't forget your instructor - I really do want you to succeed in this class, so please come see me if you feel like you're drowning. I will also be sure to build in review sessions or evening study sessions to provide assistance if you can't make it to office hours.

What happens if I miss a class?

Part of your evaluation in this class will come from work completed during class time. Missing class does mean forfeiting the points for in-class work for that day. However, we understand that occasionally, things happen that are out of our control. As a result, we will drop your 3 lowest scores for in-class work for the semester. If you need to miss class because you feel ill, your dog ate your alarm clock, you missed the bus, or you just plain didn’t want to leave the comfort of your bed for the day, consider these as included under the “3-Pass Clause“. Beyond these 3 waivers, additional absences will result in loss of points for in-class work.

Important: If you have an extenuating circumstance that could result in more than 3 absences from the class (e.g., you are on a traveling sports team, are serving on a jury trial, going through a family crisis, are receiving medical treatment that mandates an absence), please complete the Excused Absence Form (in Admin folder of D2L) and file it with Molly or Rebecca during class. We will make record of these and take these into consideration when calculating your in-class points if you go beyond your 3 waivers.

Also important: Be in touch with your group mates if you need to miss a class. Group work is a big part of this course and your absence has a direct impact on others, so be courteous, respect your group-mates, and do the right thing.

Do I really need the textbook?

Yes. Although you don't necessarily need the one associated with this course. Most of you will already have a copy of Biology by Reece from taking BS 161, so that is why I recommend this one. However, any recently published (5 yrs old or newer) and reputable biology text for majors will suffice. Let me know if you're not sure about an author or specific text version.

In this class, the text is not the primary source of information, nor is it where I go to get questions for exams and quizzes.  I test primarily from what we do in class and what is reflected in our learning objectives for any given day.  I expect you to use your text the same way I do - as a resource for supplemental information and to help me with concepts for which I need additional help.  I will try to help guide your reading by providing keywords, topics, or specific page assignments (for Reece), but part of what we hope to accomplish is that you begin to find information in the way biologists do.  We use Google and Wikipedia, too, but we validate information with primary literature and reputable on-line resources and texts.

What if I forget my clicker?

It happens. Batteries also die eventually.  You get 1 time during the semester that you can write in your responses on paper.  We will record in the gradebook when and if you use the paper option.  After that, you may lose your in-class points for the day if the activity uses clickers.  Be sure to pack an extra set of batteries in your backpack so you don't have to use your paper option on account of dead batteries.

How can I find my grades? What if I find an error in my grades?

An excel sheet with all grades from the course will be uploaded into D2L.  Your grades will be identified by the last 4 digits of your PID, and these will be sorted numerically. You can click on column headers to see how different grade categories are weighted and how sums within categories are derived.  An estimate of your grade to date will be provided in the right-most column.  You can download the file and enter values to estimate your final grade.  This is one way you can answer the question of, "what do I need to get on the final to get a 3.0 in the class?"

If one of your scores appears to be an error (for example, you see a "29" displayed on your Quiz 1 hard-copy, but a "21" is posted in the excel sheet for Quiz 1), fill out a Grade Discrepancy Form (in Admin folder in D2L) and file it with Molly or Rebecca within 1 week of receiving your graded exam or quiz.

Grade Discrepancy Forms may also be used to contest a grade.  However, before you submit a discrepancy, you MUST consult the grading rubric.  Discrepancies will not be reviewed unless students specifically cite rubric criteria in their justification.

Can I get class notes? Do I have to take notes?

Class notes (ppt slides with instructor's inkings) will be provided after class in D2L.  Whether you take notes or not is your choice, but if you ask me - I think it would be a huge mistake to only rely on the provided notes. A better option is to take your own notes, then merge them with the provided notes as a component of your study strategy

I forgot to bring my homework to class - can I still turn it in for credit?

Yes.  If the homework is turned in to Dr. Long's office/lab (PLB S-336 or S-338) before 5pm of the same day it is due, you can still receive 75% of the point value (i.e., a 25% penalty).  Homeworks turned in later than that will not be eligible to receive credit.