Supporting Effective Teaching and Learning
Gardner, Andrew , Bradbury, Jane , Emshwiller, Eve .
A new visual and pedagogical approach to teaching life cycles.
The life cycles taught in introductory botany courses are often complex, always diverse, and perennially challenging subject matter. These factors are compounded by the difficulty of integrating this material into studentsí often simplistic, anthropocentric understanding of what constitutes a life cycle. We have developed, with the aid of the UW Madison DELTA program, a set of instructional materials, both visual and pedagogical, to help students to explore, compare, and understand life cycles. Our team identified two main problems with studentsí understanding based upon literature review and our diagnostic assessment test. The first is that students use animal analogies to try to understand diverse life cycles. The second is that students have a difficult time reconciling simple, abstract conceptualizations with more concrete, biologically reflective diagrams of life cycles.
Our instructional materials address these challenges by allowing the students to visually compare abstract images portraying different life cycles and to also gradually move from the abstract to the concrete through a series of visual layers that build on the simple abstractions. We are also supporting a pedagogical approach that illuminates studentsí preconceptions about plant and animal life cycles and how those preconceptions hinder total understanding of botanical reproduction.
We plan to implement these new materials in our introductory botany course this semester and to test their efficacy through exposure of a subset of the students to the materials. We then hope to evaluate our materials through comparison of post-exposure assessment scores between the control group of students and the students who were exposed to our techniques. We will also administer a questionnaire that asks them to rate various parts of the materials and to suggest modifications and possible improvements.
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1 - University of Wisconsin Madison, Department of Botany, Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, 53706-1381, USA
Presentation Type: Education Forum Session:Informational Session
Location: Continental A/Hilton
Date: Saturday, July 7th, 2007
Time: 10:00 AM