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Creative approaches to teaching field botany skills

STOP PRESS: Dr M and his colleague Alastair Culham  presented a workshop on teaching plant ID skills at the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning workshop in collaboration with the British Ecological Society, and supported by the Society for Experimental Biology, at the Isis Education Centre in Hyde Park, London 7-8 September 2015.

Building on four previous Showcases, the event aimed to share ideas and practice for innovative field and laboratory teaching and learning, with a particular emphasis on the use of technology.

The 2015 programme broadened this focus to consider student focused fieldwork issues including inclusivity and assessment.

In their workshop on the second day, Dr M and Alastair Culham drew on their many years experience teaching plant identification on the MSc Plant Diversity and MSc SISS at University of Reading and posed the following questions:

  • Why do students need field ID skills?
  • How do students learn ID?
  • Where do students learn ID?
  • What can we do to help?

They outlined the approaches they use teaching plant ID skills at University of Reading including:

  1. Press And Preserve – using the RNG herbarium and herbarium material.
  2. Grow And Show – using glasshouse and garden grown plants.
  3. Lab Demonstrations – bringing plant material in from the field for teaching, learning and assessment.
  4. Field Visits – Taking students into the field.

They used a fieldwork case study of The Lizard, Cornwall which is the focus of the annual MSc field course to outline the approaches used on the field course for assessing knowledge which include a test using keys and a spot test in the field.

The workshop continued with an interactive session for the audience: an in-silico quiz (yes, Dr M had to look it up too!) using Quizizz and an in-Hyde Park field test!

The test results were collated and the workshop ended with a discussion of the outcomes of training and the role of Web 2.0 technologies in the way we can teach plant ID skills to a range of audiences.

The test and results will be posted here shortly.

Dr M says: Here’s the lovely group photo from the workshop:

group photo efl 2015


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