TIEE Issues can be used in lecture (even in large classes), lab, and for homework. They focus on core ecological concepts and subjects plus "hot topics."
In Volume 1 of TIEE there were only two types of Issues:
In Volume 2 of TIEE we added a third type:
With TIEE Figure Sets, Data Sets, and Frontiers Issues to Teach Ecology, students actively analyze and interpret data — and better understand how ecologists present data. They are designed to help you incorporate this kind of learning into your teaching.
These course supplements are a way to:
Figure Sets and Frontiers Issues to Teach Ecology introduce faculty to a variety of student-active teaching methods (for big and small classes, with majors and non-majors, in ecology or general biology courses). The listed approaches are just suggestions — so modify for your class and teaching style.
Very few people have the opportunity or ability to change their teaching from the ground up; most start small and build from there. Using any of these student-active approaches for the first time will probably take some practice. For instance, you will have to develop your own way to quiet a class of students noisily discussing a question (bells and blinking lights work for some). That is part of the reason for starting small — so that you can perfect your approach. We encourage you to pick an Issue that fits your curriculum and select classroom activities that fit your teaching style. Above all, maintain your "comfort zone" — especially if you are untenured.
Issues are for faculty who have already been experimenting with their teaching as well as faculty who are just starting to do this. The "toolbox" philosophy is a cornerstone of student-active teaching. This is the idea that teachers know a variety of approaches so that they can select the best method for a particular situation. Issues will help faculty expand their toolbox regardless of their prior experience.
Most faculty who use student-active teaching methods do not think that lecturing is the "wrong" way to teach. Lectures are very useful for getting across certain kinds of information quickly and efficiently. However, lecturing becomes a problem when it is used exclusively — and especially so when faculty simply do not know how to teach any other way. We have organized the Issues and Teaching Resources sections of TIEE to help faculty intermesh mini-lectures with group work during a "lecture" class.
In many situations, students are very forgiving if you explain to them why you are asking them to "turn to their neighbor" or to "think-pair-share." It may be useful to give them a handout on the merits of group work or show them data on improved student learning outcomes in student-active versus traditional courses (see http://tiee.ecoed.net/teach/teach_links.html#felder and http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/CL/default.asp).
Explaining to students why and how you are changing your teaching forces you to focus very clearly on the goals for the class. You should determine your course content goals, i.e., what is it that you want your students to know and be able to do? The list should be fairly short and may include objectives such as:
Listing course goals prompts a challenging question — how will you know if the students are meeting the course goals? How will you know if their critical thinking or analytical thinking skills have improved? Evaluation of course goals is a crucial aspect of student-active teaching and often distinguishes it from more traditional passive lecture-dependent teaching. Each approach described in Issues will direct you to various ways for evaluating the effectiveness of your teaching.
,i>Frontiers Issues to Teach Ecology has a special section called "Scientific Teaching" that shows you how to do
research on teaching - to study how well students are responding to your use of the Issue. TIEE Scientific Teaching relies on
1) Pre-test, 2) Teaching with the Issue, 3) Post-test, and 4) Reflection and Response and is based on three learning theories.
Very few people can change their teaching entirely on their own. Most need someone - another colleague in the department or from a workshop — with whom they can discuss problems with or for reality checks.
One of the major challenges for college faculty is that most have little formal training in education and cognition, and few read educational journals. As a result, many science professors who want to change their teaching will have to invest time to participate in workshops and read about teaching and learning. The Teaching section of TIEE will direct you to information about workshops and education resources. If you are new to student-active teaching, Issues or Experiments will move you towards changing your teaching, but major change will probably require more time and effort. Workshops and meeting sessions on teaching are a good follow-up on initial efforts.
One TIEE goal is to help faculty use teaching scholarship in reappointment and promotion files. Submitted Experiments and Issues are peer reviewed and at some institutions will count as peer reviewed publications. For more information about submitting contributions for TIEE see the Submissions page.