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matters that matter

Grant R. Cramer cramer at med.unr.edu
Sat Mar 4 23:32:35 EST 2000

I am trained as a Plant Physiologist. I have never take Plant Taxonomy or a
Plant Systematics course. Frankly, I find those subjects somewhat boring
(please forgive me). As I said earlier, I completely redesigned my  general
plant biology class from a standard botany text (see my syllabus and choice
of  text for  my Plant Bio 330 class on my web page below). I teach my class
with what I think are current and interesting topics that will interest the
students. I try to make the course fun, it is not especially challenging
academically. I leave that for my Plant Physiology class that I teach later.
I don't worry that they will know everything. It is not possible at my
school. I essentially teach the only two plant classes at our school. In
Plant Biology, I give them a little field work by making them collect plants
and identify them (genus only). We talk about human population pressures,
agriculture and environmental issues. The most popular part of the course
concerns herbal and medicinal plants. A common thread through out is
biotechnology. Since I changed to this format, not only have I enjoyed
teaching it more, but the response from my students has been very positive.
Hopefully, they leave the class stimulated, wanting to learn more, and go on
to learn more on their own or by taking more classes.
Grant R. Cramer
Associate Professor
Mail Stop 200
Department of Biochemistry
University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557
phone: (775) 784-4204
fax: (775) 784-1650
email: cramer at unr.edu
web page: http://www.ag.unr.edu/cramer/

> From: hadden at wingate.edu (Lee Hadden)
> Organization: BIOSCI/MRC Human Genome Mapping Project Resource Centre
> Date: 5 Mar 2000 01:55:37 -0000
> To: plant-ed at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk
> Subject: Re: Matters that matter
> 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
> so?]
> 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
> http://www.wingate.edu
> phone: 704-233-8238
> ---


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