Foundations of form and function: A synthesis-based curriculum for introductory-level organismal biology.

Academic Article


  • First-year majors organismal biology courses are frequently taught as survey courses that promote memorization rather than synthesis of biological concepts. To address the shortcomings of this approach, we redesigned the organismal portion of our introductory biology curriculum to create a "Foundations of Form and Function" course. Foundations of Form and Function introduces different organismal forms and focuses on the relationship between those forms and the execution of key physiological functions. Goals of our new course include the following: developing student recognition of common characteristics that unite living organisms as well as features that distinguish taxonomic groups, facilitating student understanding of how organisms accomplish similar functions through different forms, and reinforcing course themes with independent student research. In this paper, we describe course learning outcomes, organization, content, assessment, and laboratory activities. We also present student perspectives and outcomes of our course design based on data from four years of student evaluations. Finally, we explain how we modified our course to meet remote learning and social-distancing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
  • Authors

  • Kloepper, Laura
  • Young, Vanessa K Hilliard
  • Publication Date

  • November 2021
  • Published In


  • course design
  • introductory biology
  • pedagogy
  • remote learning
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 15458
  • End Page

  • 15467
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 22