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

Hallmark features of Integrating Concepts in Biology

ICB uses many tools to help your students construct their own knowledge and relate new concepts and information to their existing knowledge. The first tool they will encounter in each chapter is the Learning Objectives. The objectives are divided into several categories: Biology, Bio-Math Exploration, and Ethical, Legal, Social Implications (ELSI). Research tells us that students learn better when they know what is expected of them. The Learning Objectives help your students focus their reading and identify the outcomes and abilities they should gain from the reading. The best way for your students to use the Learning Objectives is to keep them in mind as they read, and refer back to them as they complete each section of a chapter. The Learning Objectives cover a range of Bloom’s taxonomy, with comprehension and application as the most common.

Following the Learning Objectives and the chapter table of contents, your students will find a You Are Here road map (Figure 3). Road maps help your students recognize the Big Idea and the size scale of life that will be the focus of the chapter. Your students can also see where they’ve been and which level is next.

Figure 3 Chapter 19 map of the five Big Ideas of biology, with the five levels embedded in each Big Idea. The Big Idea and level for each chapter will be highlighted as shown in this example.


Each chapter is organized into sections that pose questions that scientists have asked in the past and should pique your students’ curiosity. Observations of nature led scientists to ask questions about the mechanism that affected life. The questions for each section will lead your students down a path of individual discovery that revolves around an experiment or series of experiments designed to answer each scientific question. Within each section, students will construct their knowledge as they interpret the data published in the scientific literature. Students will learn the content and process of science simultaneously. As the instructor, you may adopt your preferred combination of chapters and sections to suit your needs. Sections can also be used to augment upper-level courses when you want to include original data to supplement your current textbook.

The writing style of this book is deliberately informal because market research shows students are more likely to read a more comfortable style of textbook. ICB minimizes the use of jargon, but students will undoubtedly come across terms they have not seen before. Essential terms appear in bold, and their definitions will appear in pop-up boxes when bold words are clicked. You can also click on any word and add a personalized annotation. Connections are hyperlinks within the book that indicate the relationships between Big Ideas and size scales. Connection links take readers to another section of the book to help students integrate the key concepts across the chapter structure of ICB. When one Big Idea is referenced to explain a result or concept in another Big Idea chapter, ICB makes these connections to help students recognize the integrated nature of their growing knowledge.

ICB will help your students learn to analyze experimental data. After the main question of a section has been introduced and data have been presented, students will encounter Integrating Questions to facilitate their learning. Here is an example of how Integrating Questions will help students construct their own knowledge.

Integrating Questions

  1. Examine Figure 1 and interpret the results from Udovic’s study. What do you conclude about the difference between the two types of learning environments?
  2. Are there any categories of questions where active learning reduced student comprehension? Hypothesize why traditional courses are still the most common format for teaching.


Students should use the information and data in the book, and sometimes on the Internet, to answer Integrating Questions before continuing with the readings. Integrating Questions will help your students extract information from the data. The text immediately following the Integrating Questions discusses the highlights so that students can confirm or adjust the answers they constructed, but does not take the place of students constructing the answers for themselves. The text will continue to explore the section’s question with more data followed by more Integrating Questions. By reading ICB this way, your students will participate in the process of science.

To enhance students’ understanding of biology, Bio-Math Explorations (BMEs) apply mathematical concepts to biological problems. ICB does not assume students have had calculus, but they should be familiar with fractions, decimals percentages, and very basic algebra. Each BME includes a description of the knowledge or skills students need to get the most out of that BME. Many BMEs include pre-populated Excel files so that students can explore real datasets and get a feel for how mathematics can help you understand biology. Bio-Math Exploration 0.1 is an example of a BME that further explores concepts from Figure 1. This BME is essential reading for students; the concepts in BME 0.1 are used throughout ICB.

Mathematics is integral to biology, and a biologist who shuns mathematics in his or her research will be less successful than biologists who have mastered the appropriate mathematics. Each Bio-Math Exploration focuses on the biological concept of its associated section. Students may think, “Math is not my subject,” or “I’m not good at math.” However, they probably have never seen applied math in action like they will in ICB. Math is easier to understand when students build on what they already know (e.g., arithmetic, fractions, Excel files). Bio-Math Explorations apply basic math, not calculus, to biological data to help your students learn more biology and appreciate the math they have already learned.

Bio-Math Explorations will tie directly to the data and methods in the text, yet each Bio-Math Exploration is self-contained. For biology instructors, the math is explained well enough that you do not have to study mathematics to prepare for class. BMEs provide the content necessary to understand the math as well as the relevant biology under consideration. Bio-Math Explorations help students better understand the biology through the lens of mathematics.

In each chapter, you will find Ethical, Legal, Social Implications sections (ELSIs). ELSIs raise student awareness about the real-world aspects of case studies as they learn them. ELSIs help students grapple with their own ethical perspectives on emotional topics that relate to biology, such as evolution, stem cells, the definition of life, a species’ right to exist, and the costs and benefits of genetically modified organisms. There are many “real world” implications for learning biology concepts. ICB helps students integrate the ELSIs with the biological case study. Students in traditional lecture classes often complain that what they are learning has no relevance in their lives. ICB explicitly shows how their biology course connects to their everyday lives.

Publishing Information
Citation: Paradise, C. (2015). Hallmark features of Integrating Concepts in Biology. Retrieved from