Topics, Readings & Resources
(still under construction)


Supplemental readings for the so inclined:


grading policy link

dossier link



Assignment  for next class (answer questions)


24 August

Martin, Klymkowsky & Strode

Introduction to your instructors

Introduce yourself (your course goals)

How the class will work (discussion rooms and groups)

Consider that you (or your students) need to know to answer (generate explanatory models) for a range of biological questions (individual + group report out)

Q: What topics in biology and biology education would like to see addressed and why.

Q: What is important for a biology student to know, how is that different from a non-science student?


31 August


PDF of Slides

How does science work?

What does a scientific explanation look like?

Is biology a conceptually conceptually coherent discipline?

What does it mean to understand: what level of resolution is necessary?

In theory: what are the core ideas enable you to construct plausible models and explanations for biology processes? 

In practice: what is emphasized in various flavors of biology and why? 

  • Sabine Hossenfelder: How to tell science from pseudoscience  & Flat Earth “Science”: Wrong, but not Stupid. (Q: Give two or three examples of common pseudoscientific beliefs and magical thinking in the world and in science. How would you address (in your teaching) the personal empiricism described in the flat earth video?   or religious objections to scientific theories? Consider how you, yourself, evaluate evidence and explanations in biology How might you assess the effectiveness of your teaching regarding topics associated with pseudoscientific and magical thinking?
  • John GrayThe realism of magic (Q: How might you tell when scientists are displaying magic thinking?)
  • Richard Feynman interview: Explaining magnets  (Q: how do you decide on the level of detail you present?)
  • Klymkowsky: Conceptual foundations of biology (2010) (Q: Explain whether you agree and if not, what would you add or remove?)

optional reading


14 September


PDF of slides

The role of assessment in course design: How do we know what students know (and are able to do)?

What are the limitations and affordances of various types assessments? 

How do we construct meaningful assessments.  How do we modify courses in the light of assessment results

optional: Stowe & Cooper 2019. Assessment in Chemistry Education
to watch: A private universe


21 September


PDF of slides

What makes evolutionary theory difficult to accept? 

Consider Donovan's claim that conventional teaching of genetics can reinforce racist ideation (and how to avoid it).

How do we introduce the ubiquity of stochastic processes, central to the behavior of biological systems, effectively?





28 September


PDF of slides

Understanding genes and where they come from.

How do we teach about the molecular mechanisms within complex non-linear systems? 


5 October

Martin + Stode

Seregeti Rules Royal Institution Lecture

M.W. Klymkowsky & E. Furtak 2008-2013  @ETH and then back at CU