In this article, we discuss the different effective methods of teaching biology. Biology is one of the central branches of scientific knowledge and is relevant to topics including medicine, genetics, zoology, ecology, and public policy. As such, it has the potential to interest almost any student.
One way to successfully teach biology is to target one or two main concepts and make them relatable and engaging. The best way to do that is to focus on what kids can do with the information. Focus on teaching a concept rather than trying to teach too much because sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.
Effective methods of teaching biology
1-Relate biology to everyday life.
Some students naturally love biology, while others may not be drawn to it from the start. But all students can benefit from understanding just how everyday concepts and questions are related through biology and deepen their appreciation of what they have learned, then make it more relatable. Add things like:
- Share with your class news items on medicine, DNA, the environment, population growth, and other topics that biology touches upon.
- Offer extra credit to students who will give a brief in-class report on a reference to a biological concept they came across in a television show, movie, etc. Ask them to explain the reference, its biological concept, and why it is essential.
- Talk about careers that draw on biology, such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, conservation, public health, etc. You can even invite individuals practicing in these fields to visit your class, discuss their work, and answer student questions.
2-Incorporate hands-on activities.
- Plant a garden to learn about photosynthesis.
- Raise butterflies or other animals to learn about the life cycle.
- Dissect specimens to learn about anatomy.
- Test samples of store-bought yeast to see whether or not they are alive.
- Look at slides of various kinds of cells.
3-Create multimedia materials.
4-Look for ways to bridge technology and biology.
- There are valuable resources devoted to using the popular game Minecraft in educational contexts, including biology courses.
- Allow students to utilize technology for assignments in your course. For instance, students with interest in web design might develop a website to illustrate a biological concept.
5-Utilize science games to teach biology.
Games have a way of introducing fun, new activities into the classroom. Spicing up your biology course with friendly competition can also be beneficial by adding incentives for participation. We’ve compiled some helpful resources on developing biology-centered games that will keep students engaged and motivated.
- Quiz bowl
- Twenty questions
6-Host biology-centered field trips.
- A local science museum
- A botanical garden
- A zoo
- A farm
- A research lab
Trying Different Learning and Teaching Styles
1-Try different approaches to teaching. How to teach biology
Some learning takes an active approach, whereas others should take a more passive approach. There are different ways to teach, and students will benefit from both. The key is to find the right mixture and balance between these approaches. Incorporate a variety of instructional methods, including:
- Cooperative learning (students help each other learn about a topic)
- Concept mapping
- Hands-on activities
2-Make lectures participatory.
- Utilize the Socratic method by periodically asking students questions. In an extensive lecture course, not everyone can speak daily, but students will feel more involved.
- Have students come to the lecture with pre-prepared questions. You can then address some of their questions. This lets students know that they are being listened to.
- Incorporate iClickers or similar technology into your lectures to allow students to respond in class. This will allow you to gauge how well they understand a topic and lets them get involved in discussions.
- In smaller classes, set aside plenty of time for open discussion. Expect students to be able to talk about biological topics, ask questions, etc.
- Grading students is not necessary. It’s easy to incorporate low-stakes writing exercises in your classroom. At the end of each session, let them compose a paragraph summarizing what they learned. Grades can be an optional part of this process if you see fit to have it.
4-Use peer teaching methods.
Ph.D. in Education Candidate, Stanford University
Try the jigsaw method, in which students help each other learn about a subject. This technique involves dividing a larger topic into several smaller parts. Divide the class into several groups. Every person in each of those groups learns independently, then they come together and share out what they’ve learned.
5-Read journals and other resources on teaching biology.
- The biology collection at the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT).
- The American Biology Teacher
- CBE Life Sciences Education
- Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
- Bioscience: Journal of College Biology Teaching
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