- The purposes of this investigation were twofold:
1. To determine important criteria for making a selection of
course content in general biology.
2. To ascertain what should be the content emphasis in
biology for the purposes of general education at the freshman
The literature pertinent to the problem was reviewed. A number
of approaches and educational philosophies have been proposed
for the selection of biological course content. Courses have been
1. Topics that frequently occur in newspapers and widely read
2. The misconceptions and superstitions of students
3. Basic concepts fundamental to understanding the discipline
4, "Significant biological principles" that ramify most widely
into human affairs
5. Student interests and preferences
6. Philosophical and historical implications of biology
7. Textbooks and courses of study
8. The use of "expert advice"
The subject matter content of 20 recent leading textbooks,
designed for use in college introductory biology courses was
analyzed, summarized, and classified under 11 broad content areas
that referred to plants, animals, and micro - organisms alike, and
that traversed all levels of biological organization.
Current opinions of a random sample of 150 competent research
biologists, college and university teaching biologists, science educators,
and science historians were sought on the content obtained from
the 20 textbooks,
The data were collected by means of mailed questionnaires.
The study was divided into three parts as follows:
Questionnaire I, the major phase of the study, sought opinions
on content emphasis, inclusions, omissions, objectives, and
instructional aids (50 biologists).
Questionnaire II, sought opinions regarding the extent to which
a modern course for the non -science major should reflect the
recent dependency of biology on mathematics (50 biologists). Questionnaire III, was concerned with the emphasis to be
placed on the contributions and methodology of men of science.
(40 biologists and ten science historians)
The data were analyzed by means of descriptive percentages.
The following major conclusions were drawn from the data
obtained in this study:
1. A general education course in biology should lead the student
primarily to appreciate the place and significance of
biology in human culture, and to a personal enjoyment of
2. No attempt should be made to acquaint the non -science
major with the fund of biological knowledge accumulated to
date, or to help him to develop an insight into current
biological research, although these goals might be
accomplished to some degree, simultaneously, as the
primary purposes of the course are achieved.
3. The major content emphasis of the course, without regard
to sequence, should be focused primarily on environmental
4. The second largest segment of the course should be equally
distributed between two content areas: 1) evolution, and
2) energetics and metabolism.
5. Important topics from other content areas that should be
a. Organic compounds in living systems
b. Ionic dissociation
c. Importance of physical and chemical principles in
d. Plant tissue pattern contrasted with the animal plan
e. Chemical control, animal hormones
f. Mendelian inheritance
g. Sex and inheritance
h. Genes and gene action
i. Genetics problems
j. Practical applications of genetics
k. Cellular aspects of reproduction, mitosis and meiosis
1. Asexual and sexual reproduction, general features
o, The ideas and works of selected biologists -- William
Harvey, Gregor Mendel, Lamarck, and Charles Darwin
6. Molecular concepts, topics related to nervous control,
biological roots of behavior, systematics (except for general
principles), quantitative concepts, and the historical contributions
of most of the biologists, should be de-emphasized.
7. Topics related to health and disease should not be included
in the biological science course for the non -science major.
8. A laboratory should accompany the course.
9. The content can be most fruitfully taught by utilizing a combination
of the "principles" and the "evolutionary" approaches,
10. Problem solving exercises, collateral readings, summaries,
and audio - visual aids should be utilized to help the students
to obtain the objectives of the course.