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Insects have extraordinary species richness: over a million species have been identified, and even more await discovery and classification. Given their abundance and diversity, insects are excellent teaching tools for science classrooms. However, accurate insect identification can be especially challenging for beginning students. Accordingly, we have developed a dichotomous key that both precollege and university instructors and students can use efficiently to correctly identify 18 taxonomic orders of insects. Our key was developed to target insects most commonly encountered throughout the coastal southeastern United States, but it can easily be adapted to other regions. This key is novel in that it incorporates not only adult insects but also their immature stages. In addition, we included insects that are likely to be collected in all seasons, facilitating implementation in the classroom throughout the academic year.
We used a design-based research approach to develop “data-rich problem” (DRP) tasks intended to support middle and high school students in constructing knowledge about food webs and ecosystem dynamics, specifically the effects of species loss. The marine environment is used for context to promote an understanding of interdependent ecological relationships and the nonlinear and sustaining effects of loss of species. The Food Web DRP tasks we describe are designed for classroom implementation in alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards. The intended time frame for implementation is five days (assuming 50-minute class periods).
Students in the United States struggle with literacy skills, a problem that extends into their undergraduate education and beyond. Particularly in the sciences, reading assignments are usually singularly academic in nature and do not impart the importance of creativity and innovation. We propose a curriculum strategy and lesson plan that employs a “reading across the curriculum” approach to enhance literacy skills in biology students while simultaneously encouraging scientific discourse and creativity.
Learning theorists have provided ample evidence supporting the use of active, student-centered, social learning environments. However, little action has been taken within U.S. university curricula to transform lecture courses so that they include such teaching methods. By adding cooperative and collaborative activities into large-lecture, introductory biology courses, I was able to measure the impacts of such active-learning strategies on student attendance and performance. I gathered data from two investigations involving 378 undergraduates from paired sections of biology, one section using activelearning activities and one not. In the first investigation, I used a mixedmethods approach to measure the effects of a cooperative pre-exam group discussion on student performance, confidence, and anxiety. In the second investigation, I used a quantitative approach to measure the effects on course attendance and performance of using scenario-based collaborative activities regularly throughout a semester. Students who engaged in cooperative preexam discussion did not show significant individual learning gains but did show an increase in confidence and a decrease in anxiety. Students who engaged in scenario-based collaborative activities showed significantly higher learning gains and course attendance. The identified gains are promising for course reform.
This article discusses the alluring topic of olfactory learning, which is often touched on in the literature but is rarely employed. I argue that olfactory learning, at its best, is achieved in contact with living nature, as in the plethora of scents that can be encountered and discussed in ecological context in a forest. An expected outcome is enhanced sensory awareness of the living environment.
Understanding habitat heterogeneity and habitat preference are central tenets of undergraduate ecology courses, but many urban campuses, particularly community colleges and others with large student enrollments, may lack the means for extensive field sampling and monitoring. We outline the use of diatoms living in decorative water fountains as a proxy for field sample collection, data analysis, and ecological interpretation. These methods are amenable to undergraduate laboratory courses and independent student research projects.
High school students often find the concept of respiration difficult. Yeast, a readily available resource, offers promising material for studying the topic. This article describes a low-cost, microscale setup for investigating yeast fermentation. The observations in the practical activity are visually appealing to learners. The article also illustrates how this setup can be used to promote student engagement with scientific ideas by prompting students to (1) predict what they will observe in the activity and (2) link what they actually observe in it to the underlying scientific ideas, in the context of studying the effects of different sugar substrates on yeast fermentation. The simple setup can be easily modified for various scientific investigations related to yeast fermentation and, hence, represents a promising teaching tool for teaching this difficult-to-learn topic in high school biology classrooms.
While a wealth of research exists examining elementary teachers' and students' alternative conceptions about science and offering recommendations for teacher preparation to include an emphasis on supporting conceptual change, this article presents a useful compilation that serves as a go-to resource on some of the most common oversimplified rules, incomplete or misleading vocabulary, and confusing diagrams promulgated in science teaching that could lead to enduring student misconceptions.
Simple teaching experiments demonstrating endocrinological concepts are difficult to come by. I discuss a simple experiment demonstrating control of cutaneous drinking by the hormone angiotensin II in terrestrial toads, designed after methods published in the primary literature and presented herein to make this exercise more widely accessible to ABT readers. This experiment is notable in that it (1) permits students to quantify both a physiological and a behavioral response to exogenous hormone administration; (2) can be implemented in relatively small class sizes; (3) does not require animal euthanasia; and (4) can be accomplished in one class period. Furthermore, data collection can be easily carried out by students using common laboratory supplies, and analysis and interpretation of the collected data are straightforward. Finally, in demonstrating the function of the highly conserved renin-angiotensinaldosterone system, this hands-on experiment has obvious clinical connections relevant to human medicine (e.g., blood-pressure regulation and treatment of hypertension).
Providing detailed feedback in large classes is challenging. We describe how we develop an archive of comments while marking — noting good points, what needs improvement, and how to correct shortcomings. Comments are recorded in a single document with codes. Relevant codes are marked on students' work where issues arise. Each student's annotated assignment is returned with a copy of the comments for the class. Thus, they receive specific feedback on their own work, plus all comments given to the class. Instructors save on marking time because comments are written once on the master list, and only codes and a personalized summary statement are written on the assignment. Markers may collaborate in preparing comments to assist in moderation; some generic comments (e.g., presentation and grammar) are portable across different assignments and years; and comments from past years may form a rubric for sharing with students before they start an assignment.