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botany syllabi and texts

Lee Hadden hadden at WINGATE.EDU
Sat Feb 21 15:02:24 EST 1998

plant-ed at net.bio.net

With the wealth and varieties of experiences evident from reading info
and requests posted here over the last year, I thought I would tap this
resource myself to assist me in my course planning.  I am completely
revamping my sophomore-level Plant Biology course for the fall and would

like to see what others do in their courses and what text and lab
manuals they use. [I'm about to write my own, again, to avoid having to
customize the exercises I do use from commercial manuals and also to
avoid the waste of student money since rarely is the whole manual

Some questions:
1. Has anyone compiled a reference collection of syllabi from various
schools?  Does one exist on the Internet?  [I know you can access course

and syllabi info for some courses at some schools on a school-by-school

2. How do you colleagues in similar [small] departments organize all
that there is to cover re plants and plant allies in one survey course,
and not overwhelm students [who aren't keen, at first, on taking
"botany" anyway] with so much that they take away from the experience
too little?

3. Is there a suggested "model" syllabus [perhaps from a professional
society] that can form a core topics list and upon which
modified/customized syllabi could be built?

4. Does anyone feel the need for some type of course development forum
[website/ BBS/ local-regional dialog groups, newsletter [electronic or
snailmail], etc] to provide a quick, concise reference point for plant
curriculum review, modification, or for younger colleagues just starting

out who think they've got the problem licked--for a while? :)

5. To what extent do any of you include lecture and lab work on
transgenic plants--at least elementary experimental, hands-on work?

6. Have you found that one particular emphasis more than another is more

effective for getting students' attention and facilitating their
learning and carrying with them the course content?  [Does an ecological

approach work better for you?; a physiological one?;
taxonomic/phylogenetic?; economic? biotech?; etc.  I've changed emphases

several times, trying to tailor it to the personality of the class,
while at the same time not letting the class dictate content, but
something always seems to get lost in the cracks.  Maybe it should be
two courses.

7. Has anyone developed "sure-fire" lab exercises, preferably
experiments, that captivate and teach essential concepts?  {And have you

run into the cookbook/ look-and-see/ do-this-and you will observe-that
mentality that so many of my students possess?  They go bonkers and
complain up to the administration when I assign them an open-ended lab
to develop in microbiology or botany:  "What have you noticed/observed?
What might be the basis or explanation?  Now develop and conduct an
experiment to see if you're hunch is right.!"   "What does he mean,
"Tell me what you see and think?"  "Just tell me what IS and what I'm
supposed to know for the test!"
Maybe this is telltale burnout on my behalf.  But if you ever want to
see instant panic on faces try giving your students a lab to observe
whatever [botanical] catches their eye [they gave up observing things in

middle school--except the other gender], develop an hypothesis which can

be tested with a simple experiment or two, and from which they draw
conclusions and proceed further into their inquiry.  And be sure to
respond to their questions, fueled by the insecurity of not knowing
there is a definable endpoint and collection of memorizable "facts"]
with "H'mmm, I'm not sure--what do you think?  What do your partners
think?"  "How can you check that?"  Fun! And most revealing and
virtually always beneficial to those who want to truly learn, and learn
to learn.

8. I noticed a while back a series of responses regarding textbooks.
Moore, Clark, and Vodopich [2nd ed] took several hits, and rightfully so

for the errors I encountered made it an embarrasing choice.  Does anyone

have a compilation of errors they've noticed in that book in particular
[the section head at WCBrown has asked me for a list, but I though a
bigger compilation would serve them better], or for other books in
Did anyone make a list of responses regarding the current texts [and
maybe lab manuals] available? I'd appreciate a copy.  Is there anyway to

post a master list of texts so we could indicate which ones we've used
and what we thought of them [keeping in mind their effectiveness for
communicating to STUDENTS who have had no previous coverage of botany]
so that the list would be available at one place for a reasonable time
period for reference by anyone interested?

I've tried, over the last 15 years, most of the major botany books at
one time or other.  Most are easily comprehended by students who
understand botany already, because they surely aren't written for novice

students--hitting them where they are and then taking them to the level
they should attain.  Most are great resource and reference items for us,

but have content, emphases, and styles that leave even me cold, let
alone new majors in whom I want to cultivate an appreciation for and
essential knowledge base in plant biology.  [I always love the pre-med
who asks, "Why do I have to study plants--med schools don't require
it?"] How do you inspire that student with typical "classic" standard

Moore, C., & V. was the first text that drew me into it such that I
didn't want to put it down.  It got one's attention and then wove in the

details most effectively.  Alas with too many wrong details to use
again.  But I dread switching back to dry tomes of taxonomic or
phylogenetic or anatomic minutia, for the students' sakes.  Any

My deepest thanks to anyone who actually reads all of this and responds
to any of it with helpful suggestions or insights.  If responses are
received by question number or inserted after questions, I will compile
them and make them available to anyone requesting them [either direct
email or US mail].  It's the least I can do in return for any input I
get as I redesign my courses.

Thanks again and this site is a real benefit to those teaching about and

working with plants!

Lee Hadden
Department of Biology
Wingate University
Wingate, NC  28174

hadden at wingate.edu

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