Biology Department - Faculty
          - West Valley College

Biology Home Roberta 

Barry Thomson 
Instructor of Biology
Biology Department 
West Valley Community College 

Office: SM 55D
Phone: (408) 741 3053 x 3308
Courses Taught at West Valley College


    Schedule Fall 2015

    M/W 7:45-9:20am
    Bio 10 Lecture
    SM 36
    Office Hour
    SM 55D
     Bio 11 Lecture
    SM 34
    2:05 - 5:15pm
    Bio 11 Lab 43580
    SM 50
    2:05 - 5:15pm Bio 11 Lab 43581
    SM 50
    Finals Week
    Office Hours
    SM 55D

    A little advice for those interested in their final grade.....

    You award yourself your own grade.

    It is better to be in control of your grade, than have your grade be in control of you.  How to keep your grade under control.

    Scenario #1: You are a Jellyfish.  You are floating on an ocean drifting aimlessly at the whim of ocean currents and sea breezes. You may spend years without developing a direction. You have no control.

    Scenario #2: You are sailing a yacht. You have a firm direction in mind, you are in control of your route. You  may choose a diversion or even choose to switch to another final destination, but you are in control.

    Which are you?

    To take control:

    First of all know what grade you need to achieve for each of the classes that you are taking. Once you know which classes are the most important in terms of your future career path, you can plan your study time accordingly.  If you have not decided yet on what you are going to major in, or which career you will enter- you should dedicate some time to thinking about it.

    Read the greensheet carefully. Understand how the classes are assessed. When are the deadlines. What is the exam format? What is the late work policy, what are the grading standards, are there any extra credit opportunities- how many points are on offer?

    Understand the grade bands- how many points do you need to get to achieve a "B".

    Do not assume that midterms will be easy.

    Treat the first exam like you would approach a final. It is very important. If you are well prepared and score highly in the first midterm, you are in a strong position to achieve your desired final grade.


    If you wander into the first midterm poorly prepared- you may be chasing to make up the wasted points for the rest of the semester.

    How did my grade get to be so low??

    Your grade is your responsibility.  Your final grade depends upon decisions that you make.

    If you decide that you will do the assigned work, do a good and careful job, and hand it in on time, you are awarding yourself a just grade.

    If you decide that other things have to come first today, and, "I will do the assignment tomorrow, definately by Monday, (after the football for sure!)" Your grade will still accurately reflect the work you did for the class. However, your grade will not accurately reflect the grade you could have got.

    How to Study (and be Succesful and Happy in Life)

    Active Reading

    For my classes I emphasize understanding the concepts. This requires more than just reading the book while watching the TV. Reserve time to read in your weekly schedule. Plan a time and maintain a space where you can concentrate. Try to create an atmosphere conducive to your learning: minimize distractions, turn off your cell phone, put up a DO NOT DISTURB notice.

    University of New England : Active Reading Techniques

    Overcoming the urge to Scream!

    Coping with Biological terms. Biology is full of latin and geek (Sorry...greek) based terms. These terms have specific meanings and unfortunately you do have to learn them. The best way to master them is to build your own Biological Glossary.  The textbook has definitions that make perfect sense to the author, who is a biologist. Unfortunately you will not be able to use the authors brain when it comes to the exams.  In order to remember what the words mean translate the authors words into your own. This will make it easier for you to remember when it comes to a test when you don't have a textbook handy.

    Prentice Hall Biological Glossary

    Remembering what you read. 
    Take notes. Resist the urge to copy chunks of the text. All this is doing is taking up your time. Copying is not the same as learning. You have to think of what is being said- and again this is best done by using your own words. Do not be afraid to deface books, you can scribble notes in the margins- this will help next time you read the textbook.  Alternatively you may take notes that can be filed with your lecture notes. Write down the page numbers to help you find the original material in the textbook later. : Improving your memory : Improving your memory

    What to do when you finish a Chapter

    Once you finish the reading the chapter- review the chapter. If you close the book without thinking about what you have just read, you will rapidly forget. Now is the time to reinforce your new knowledge, nail those hard gained facts to the roof of your brain so that they don't float away.

    Study Groups

    If you have never been a member of a study group, there is nothing to lose by trying it out this semester. Typically a group of 2-6 students 

    swap contact information and arrange a time and place to meet. They set goals, for instance "read Chapter 2 and identify problems" and discuss lectures and projects together.

    University of Victoria : About Study Groups and Learning
    Santa Rosa Community College : Forming Study Groups, Using Study Groups Effectively

    Web Study Skills and Learning Resources

    How To : Tips on note taking, test taking
    Virginia Tech : study skills and time management
    Study Guides and Strategies ; How to prepare for classes. Comprehensive advice for college classes
    Biology Study Skills : Aimed at majors students at Pima College, but sound advise
    Reading Biology : More from Pima College
    University of North Carolina : Improve your Study Habits
    How to Everything you ever wanted to know about studying, but were too afraid to ask


    Rainforest Opportunities
    Rainforest Resources
    Tropical Travels
    Biology Links


    West Valley College
    Page created by: Barry Thomson
    Updated: December  19,  2007