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Chapter 0: Instructor's Guide to Integrating Concepts in Biology

Re-envisioning the Introductory Biology Textbook Experience

Recent initiatives have called for evidence-based approaches to teaching.2-4,10 Efforts with significant support have focused on precisely what needs to change and why.2,3 Recent publications have called for active engagement with students, inquiry-based approaches, and teaching biology as a process and not just a set of disjointed facts.11,12 Inquiry- and process-based approaches lead to long-term learning gains.12 Traditional textbooks reinforce the misconception that science is merely a collection of facts, and deprive your students of the opportunity to learn the way real scientists learn––through discovery.

Integrating Concepts in Biology (ICB) is an e-text that presents the core concepts of biology in a new way for majors’ introductory biology courses. ICB 1) focuses on “big ideas” rather than disjointed facts; 2) emphasizes experimental design and data interpretation­­––the process of science; 3) presents information in a way that maximizes your learning and retention; 4) allows you to interact with mathematical models and simulations so that you can see how basic mathematics can yield profound insights into biological concepts; 5) and includes case studies on important modern topics such as adaptive immunity, origin of life, flocking behavior, and bioinformatics, which are not typically included in an introductory course. The core recommendations of BIO 2010 and Vision and Change are the foundation for ICB.2,3 Those recommendations include focusing on core concepts (i.e., Big Ideas) and core competencies, which include quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, the ability to apply the process of science, and understanding of the link between science and society. Students using ICB will learn core concepts and analytical skills simultaneously.

Students learn and retain new information better when they are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge and when new information is connected to what they already know.4,5 Students engage original data from the literature, and Integrating Questions (IQs) guide students to construct their own understanding. ICB presents cases where student interact with mathematical models and simulations, helping students realize how even very basic mathematics can yield profound insights into biological concepts. The table of contents contains all the core concepts, but the order of topics will be different.

We have documented learning gains and attitudinal changes in our students based on the use of ICB and without overhauling the way we run our classes.1 By changing books, our classroom has been converted from a place where students memorized facts in the absence of data to a place where the scientific process provides the context and substance of the teacher-student interaction. ICB can transform your classroom and lead to sustained learning gains in your students. If you want your students to experience their first college biology course the way you experience biology in your professional life, then take the leap and be a part of a national movement to improve introductory biology education. We believe the time is right and teachers are ready for meaningful change. Bring the passion of science back into your class and watch your students discover why biology is so amazing.

Publishing Information
Citation: Paradise, C. (2015). Re-envisioning the Introductory Biology Textbook Experience. Retrieved from