Biology: Life as We Know It
Author(s): Andrew Baldwin
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After two decades of teaching the two-semester sequence of general biology courses, requiring students to purchase a hefty textbook at a high cost that contained far more chapters than one could ever realistically cover in a typical academic year, the concept of this textbook was born.
This text not only removes materials not covered in most general biology classes (which are covered in courses that follow) but it also condenses the material that is most often taught into a more manageable and usable form. Additionally, this text is written to focus on how the subject of biology fits into the real world through utilizing a myriad of applications and current research to illustrate that our understanding is constantly growing. Each chapter begins with a ‘Big Picture’ introduction, ends with a ‘Bottom Line’ summary, and includes a ‘Field Notes’ feature that highlights current or recent research on the topic of that chapter.
The text follows the theme that the Earth has been and always will be going through changes. Over time, historical events have shaped everything that we observe today from environments to anatomical structures and from species diversity to molecular processes. Thus, it is important for students not just to understand the what behind any given phenomenon or process, but to understand how, why and from where such things evolved to exist in the way that they did.
As neither life nor science is multiple choice, the assessment sections for each chapter include some multiple-choice questions for quick knowledge checks and convenience but also short answer questions that require students to think critically, connect concepts and write answers in their own words.
With the overwhelming availability of online information, the function of textbooks is changing in regard to their role in education. In short, this text is designed for classroom use for both instructor and student, not as the traditional comprehensive encyclopedic reference.
Biology: Life as We Know It:
- contains teaching ancillaries, such as PowerPoint slides and a Test Bank.
- includes "Test Your Understanding" discussion questions at the ends of chapters that engage students and solidify understanding.
- features adaptive software that provides an individualized learning experience tailored for every student.
Additionally, the book has proven effective for non-majors as well. Hear what author Andy Baldwin has to say:
A Note From the Author - Teaching Philosophy:
Science is neither multiple choice nor guesswork and therefore courses should neither be taught nor assessed in ways do not prepare students for real world experiences. Science is a process that involves building a foundational understanding of the natural world and then explaining patterns and concepts to others based on that knowledge. It also involves synthesizing ideas, designing experiments and applying knowledge to a practical use or problem. My teaching philosophy for students who are interested in pursuing science as a career is to do so in a manner that prepares students for upper and graduate level courses as well as the real world. I offer real life examples and applications, recent discoveries that make us all question what we think we know and always approach even the most disturbing topics with a positive ‘opportunity to learn and improve’ approach. Too often texts and instructors present topics (i.e. ecology or conservation) with a gloomy outlook that make students feel guilty for living their lives. Such an approach does not motivate enthusiasm or action. It often makes people shy away in shame. In the classroom, I know that students learn science by doing science and therefore I have them participate in undergraduate research projects. Instead of teaching canned labs with known outcomes (which again is not the real world), student address original biological questions. This approach is also more interesting for the instructor.
Almost as important as students learning biology, they need to learn how to learn (which is unique to each person). So many students think studying means making and using flashcards. While this approach may be successful for learning vocabulary, it is often not useful for connecting concepts. Further, the introductory biology course sequence typically spans two semesters and it is bewildering how many students think that once they pass the first semester, they can purge all the information they learned and start fresh for the second semester.
This textbook is representative of my approach in the classes I teach at Mesa Community College. Science is the continual building and connecting of information and ideas. Every topic has a ‘wow factor’ and a ‘what can we do with this knowledge?’ approach. Complex topics are not watered-down, only simplified and then expanded to their full form. While I offer some multiple-choice questions, these are simply to assess definitions and facts. All other assessments are short answer where students are expected to answer a question in their own words as if they are explaining it to another person. This is preparation for real world situations regardless of their eventual profession.
The material presented in this book is very condensed. I actually really liked this. [Its competitor] has a lot of detail and it can be overwhelming to students. I think students are more likely to read the chapter ahead of class if it is presented in this fashion. I do not cover all the information that is included in my current textbook.
- Aurea Cortes-Palomec, Fort Lewis College
The writing style is fluent and easy to read which is a strong asset for students. The presentation is excellent and manageable...The content is interesting and engaging; the visuals are colorful and of excellent quality. The writing style is similar to other texts that I have read and used. It is very fluent and not too much jargon.
- Noelle Cutter, Molloy College
The first chapter of this text covers the main ideas of biology, the process of the scientific method, the hierarchy of life, and a great summary of the history of biology. It does not contain as much information as our current text, which goes into more detail about evolution, DNA, etc., but that is not a bad thing. The arrangement and depth of the material is just the right amount. After reading this chapter I actually prefer it to our current text. It is not overpowering with fancy talk and gives some great comparisons to life situations. My favorite section is the history of biology and the timeline of significant discoveries. This is really a great addition to the story and allows the student to see how science has advanced over the last few centuries.
- Mary Colon, Seminole State College of Florida
As previously mentioned, I think that this chapter is written in a reader-friendly manner. Topics are discussed in a way that make them easy to understand. I think that compared to other texts, students would be willing to actually read this one.
- Marleshia Hall, Shelton State Community College
This chapter is right in line with the important key concepts, as I teach them in my course. I absolutely love the bold/red key words with definitions in the margins. I think the text is appropriately readable and strikes the right balance between depth and length. Examples are excellent.
- John Steele, Humboldt State University
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