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Matters that matter

Lee Hadden hadden at wingate.edu
Sat Mar 4 20:55:37 EST 2000

Bill, and other e-colleagues [I almost used "virtual colleagues", but I
trust you're all very real]---

I appreciate your [Bill's] quick response and thoughtful insights.
You've added another very helpful dimension to my initial posting [it
was already so long I decided not to explain further at that point,
unless the need for it became evident from plant-ed input].  I agree
with your pro/con analysis, but I do want to clarify one thing from your
"please no" perspective.  I am not at all trying to see if an approved
or universal syllabus can be developed.  I agree that there is no single
best way to do it and would abhor the loss of individual expression
should someone think there is.  [Even if someone came up with it, who of
us could teach it with uniform effectiveness?  Custom tailoring has to
be possible.  The course AND syllabus need to be dynamic.]

What I AM looking for is more like a general, basic consensus from peers
about what ought to be included in a contemporary Plant Biology course
that will probably be the only formal academic exposure to plants for
most biology majors.   I'm essentially wondering how much time and
detail others of you spend on which topics in your courses.  I find
myself in a real quandary with all of the things that I think students
ought to have some familiarity with, especially with the explosion of
plant biotech advances and info, and only having one semester in which
to do it [and doing it with students having no foundation in botany upon
which to build!].  I cannot begin to keep up with the advances in botany
personally and fear I'll leave some critical component[s] out of the
course or, worse, teach it at a level 5 years behind state-of-the-art!
[Maybe I need to add a Current Topics in Botany seminar for those who
might like one. But could I find more than one student every 2 years or

I would especially like to know what is done in courses taught by
colleagues with more strictly specialized or sub specialized botanical
training.  What do those of you who are plant taxonomists do in your
intro botany courses [I'm not talking about plant tax. or plant anatomy
type courses]?  Or if any plant physiologists, morphologists,
geneticists out there teach undergraduate botany, what do you include?

[I guess a little more of my background might help.  My BS, master's,
and Ph. D. are in Biology.  My emphasis and research in graduate school
were in physiological plant ecology.  Since I wanted to teach in a small
college eventually, I took as many graduate  biology courses in as many
varied areas as I could so I would be able to teach as many undergrad
courses as might be necessary--and it HAS been!!!!.--everything from
botany, ecology, electron microscopy, histology, microbiology, to
zoology, and more!.  Thus I am essentially a "generalist" with a strong
and broad plant emphasis, as opposed to solely being a plant taxonomist
or plant physiologist, etc.]

So, to refine my request a little: in a one semester undergraduate
introductory botany course, what do you [y'all--if I've learned to use
that correctly] think ought to be included?   What DO you include?  How
much emphasis do various topics get?  What do you minimize in order to
do a good job with what is taught?  What don't you cover that you used
to or that you know other colleagues do cover?  What do you feel
constitutes a solid core for almost any such course?  [Realizing that
the core is the skeleton upon or around which individual courses could
be developed.]  Are there basics which ought to be found in any
viable/credible intro plant bio course taught in 2000 and beyond?

Should students be able to write a floral formula, or explain in detail
the development of mature tissues from meristems?  Describe phylogenies
and defend taxonomic groupings?  If they have to take a genetics course
anyway, is it necessary to do plant genetics?  And what emphasis ought
to be given to plant pathology and biotechnology and ecology, etc.,
etc., etc.?  I would love to benefit from what you and others have tried
and developed and found effective.   What topics and methods have worked
and what haven't?

I hope this helps clarify my situation and the reasons for my plea.
Maybe when I get my taxes filed I'll make a composite syllabus based
upon those of yours I can access on the internet.  If there were spaces
or response boxes beside a list of topics in which you could indicate:
whether you included them in you course; how much lecture / lab time was
given to each; or spaces to add topics not already listed, would any of
you respond and eventually like to see a compilation of responses?
Would a list of "competencies" help?  Since I've put this forth, I'll do
my best to help it materialize if I'll get responses from plant-ed folks
with which to work.   But I don't want to beat a dead horse if no one
else shares my concerns or would care to participate or see the results
if there are responses.

Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you and the others out
there who make this site so helpful.

Lee Hadden
Professor and Chair,
Department of Biology
Wingate University
Wingate, NC  28174

hadden at wingate.edu
phone: 704-233-8238


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