Teaching to the Test

A scientist scrutinizes introductory biology textbooks, finding that they seem to cater to premedical students.

By | September 5, 2013

FLICKR, TIMUIUCCollege students taking introductory biology classes may not be getting healthy doses of several important topics, according to an analysis of eight commonly used textbooks. Writing in CBE-Life Sciences Education this week, Ohio State University’s Steven Rissing, professor of evolution, ecology, and organismal biology, deconstructs the contents of eight commonly used biology textbooks. In his analysis, Rissing found that most of the books closely follow topics premedical students are likely to see on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), leaning heavily on subjects like molecular and cellular biology, while giving less attention to issues like evolution and the effects of climate change. Altogether, the textbooks included at least 50 percent of the primary MCAT biology content specifications within the first 30 percent of text, Rissing found.

“We need to have biology education for citizens and voters, not just for future doctors,” he said in a statement. “Students who have no intention of going to medical school are primarily learning what they need to know for the MCAT exam.”

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September 6, 2013


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