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.
To be successful at teaching biology, however, you will have to think carefully about how to share this exciting field in ways that are relatable and enjoyable. Along the way, you should make it your goal for students to achieve at least a fundamental knowledge of biological concepts.
1-Relate biology to everyday life.
Some students will be naturally drawn to biology, while others will ask why they should care about it. All students will benefit if you can show how biological concepts and questions are relevant to daily life. This will deepen their appreciation of of4t2ter science and make it more relatable. Do 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, what biological concept it dealt with, and why it is important.
- 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, talk about 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-Incorporate 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 an interest in web design might develop a website to illustrate a biological concept.
5-Utilize science games to teach biology.
- 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
- Cooperative learning (students help each other learn about a topic)
- Concept mapping
- Hands-on activities
2-Make lectures are participatory.
- Utilize the Socratic method by periodically asking students questions. In a large lecture course, not everyone may have the chance to speak each day, 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.
- Consider incorporating iClickers or similar technologies into your lecture courses so that students can respond to informal quizzes or polls during class. This lets you gauge how well they are understanding a topic, and gives them an opportunity to get involved.
- In smaller classes, set aside plenty of time for open discussion. Expect students to be able to talk about biological topics, ask questions, etc.
- You don’t have to over grade students. It’s easy to incorporate low-stakes writing exercises in your class. For instance, at the end of each session, have them write a paragraph summarizing what they learned. Rather than assigning a grade to their responses, open the next class session by discussing them.
4-Use peer teaching methods.
PhD in Education Candidate, Stanford University
Try the jigsaw method, in which students help each other learn about a subject. This technique involves taking a larger topic and dividing it into a number of smaller parts. Divide the class into that number of 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