Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biology texts geared toward pre-med students

Date:
September 5, 2013
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
College biology textbooks cater to the needs of pre-med majors, and not those of the majority of students who take introductory science classes.

College biology textbooks cater to the needs of pre-med majors and not those of the majority of students who take introductory science classes, a new study reveals.

A text analysis of eight commonly used biology textbooks found that all of them closely follow the curriculum suggested for pre-med students by the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

That means the texts put a heavy emphasis on molecular and cellular biology, while giving less attention to the big issues that have more relevance to students who don’t plan on being medical doctors, said Steven Rissing, author of the study and professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at The Ohio State University.

Rissing said his concern is for what he calls “general education” students. These are students who may take an introductory biology class to fulfill a science requirement for graduation, but have no intention of becoming a doctor or majoring in biology.

“These general education students are getting a lot about cell division mitosis from their textbooks when they really should be learning about things like personalized medicine, evolution and the impact of climate change,” Rissing said.

“We need to have biology education for citizens and voters, not just for future doctors.”

The study was published this week in the September 2013 issue of the journal CBE-Life Sciences Education.

For the study, Rissing analyzed eight textbooks published by McGraw-Hill and Benjamin Cummings that are commonly used in introductory college biology classes. Some were designed for biology majors, while others are marketed for students outside of biology who are fulfilling a general science requirement.

Rissing wanted to see how much these texts followed specifications established by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which designs and administers the MCAT.

The AAMC has developed MCAT Important Ratings (MIRs) which tell instructors which topics are most important for pre-medical students to know.

The result of the analysis showed that all the textbooks -- those for biology majors and pre-medical students as well as those for general education students -- closely followed the MCAT specifications.

Rissing found that the sequence of topics in the texts closely followed the AAMC importance ratings for the topics. All texts included at least 50 percent of the primary MCAT biology content specifications within the first 30 percent of text.

That means that cellular and molecular biology came first in the books. Biology of body systems, and developmental, organismal and population biology came last in the books, where it is more likely to be skipped if instructors don’t have enough time over the course of the semester or quarter.

Rissing also analyzed how often the books used MCAT topic terms in their texts. These are terms like “chromatids” or “mitosis” that the AAMC says pre-med students should know about to prepare for the MCAT.

Results showed that in the texts ostensibly designed for general education students, the density of these MCAT terms equaled or many times even exceeded that of the texts designed for biology majors and pre-medical students.

“Students who have no intention of going to medical school are primarily learning what they need to know for the MCAT exam,” Rissing said.

“That means other biology topics that may be more useful to them are going to be left out.”

Not only do the general education texts present topics in nearly identical sequence to the corresponding texts for majors, they also use very similar wording, Rissing said. In many cases, all the publishers do is abridge the content slightly.

But the way the content is abridged for general education students is not always helpful, and may unintentionally support common biological misconceptions, Rissing said.

For example, Rissing compared how different textbooks handled visual timelines of hominid evolution. In one text for biology majors, the timeline showed 13 ancestors and close relatives of modern humans. But in a comparable general education text, five of the human ancestors and close relatives had been taken out.

“Based on that timeline, some students may believe the evidence for evolution is not as strong as it really is,” Rissing said.

He said general education students need to have an overview of the big issues in biology that will make them more informed citizens, voters and patients of health care.

“Personalized medicine has become a big issue as scientists learn how to tailor drugs to individuals. But people need to know biology in order to understand and follow directions of their health care providers,” he said.

Students also need to understand how climate change will affect humans and ecosystems around the world.

“This isn’t the same education you would necessarily give to future doctors,” he said.

“We need a more scientifically literate public, but we’re not doing a very good job. Our biology textbooks are one important reason why we aren’t succeeding.”

#


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. W. Rissing. Correlation between MCAT Biology Content Specifications and Topic Scope and Sequence of General Education College Biology Textbooks. Cell Biology Education, 2013; 12 (3): 429 DOI: 10.1187/cbe.13-02-0017

Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Biology texts geared toward pre-med students." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905085526.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2013, September 5). Biology texts geared toward pre-med students. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905085526.htm
Ohio State University. "Biology texts geared toward pre-med students." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905085526.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins