7 Ways to Be an Even Better Biology Teacher
There has never been a better time to teach biology.
Biology is unquestionably relevant. Students want to understand pandemics, genetic differences, the effects of climate change, and the potential for biology to change their lives.
Biology labs are all about planting beans in cups and dissecting frogs anymore. Modern Biology, Inc. brings the equipment every school lab needs to keep biology teaching on the cutting edge. Even in high school, students can have hands-on experiences with Western blotting, electrophoresis, and enzyme kinetics.
And there have never been as many avenues for biology students at all levels to pursue careers in the life sciences.
So, what can biology teachers do to be even better? Great biology teachers make sure every student participates in the learning process. Here are six ways they can do that.
1. Give your students time to think about what you are teaching.
There is value in the pregnant pause. Students often struggle to keep up with difficult concepts. Give them time to take notes, reflect on what you are teaching them, and ask questions. For some teachers, this means curbing your excitement over your topic just enough to make sure every student can keep up. On that topic,
2. Make sure your lessons are inclusive of every student.
Every class has shy students. These are students who aren’t sure enough of their knowledge, or their vocabulary, or that they know the lesson well enough to sound informed. Some students just aren’t comfortable asking questions in front of the whole class.
So, make sure students participate in a different way. Get a pack of index cards. Chances are that you can find them for under $1, at least in the continental United States. At critical points in the lecture, ask each student to jot down three facts, or three open questions, about your discussion topic. Then have the students pass the index cards to the front. Answer questions and acknowledge understanding without revealing the name of the student who turned in the card.
3. Encourage students to raise their hand before they speak.
Graduate biology seminars have a way of becoming discussions. There should be an easy exchange of ideas as students “read” each other’s body language to know when to speak.
But in undergraduate and high school biology classes, there are students who have to work up the courage to speak so the entire class can hear. These students need to have the time to phrase their questions and comments without the interruption of an over-eager student’s speaking over them. Setting a policy of having students raise their hands to get your acknowledgement and permission to speak makes participation easier for students who are in the process of gaining self-confidence.
4. Multiple hands, multiple voices.
Good teachers don’t let the same student answer every question.
Encourage multiple students to answer questions. Tell your students that you would like several of them to raise their hands to answer your question. Then, invite the participation of every student who responded to you. Confirm the right answer but call on other students to amplify and clarify the discussion.
5. Set up a participation lottery.
Whether you have a class of 7 or 70 or 700, one way to ensure participation is to take a lottery approach to student participation. Write each student’s name on a popsicle stick. Place all the popsicle sticks in a jar. Reach into the jar to pull out a stick, calling the student whose name is on it, when you want student participation. Reward participation with points toward final grades.
6. Around the class.
Assign open-ended questions for homework. Then ask every student in the class for the answers they wrote for their homework assignment, going around the class, making sure every student is called on to participate.
On the first day of class, you could ask each student what their prior experience of studying biology has been. Or you could assign every student to find an example of how understanding biology can make their own lives better. Going around the class, making sure students spend only a few seconds giving their answers, increases each student’s sense of belonging in the class.
Great biology teachers encourage verbal exchanges of facts and ideas, and they also reinforce what they teach in their lectures with their lab work.
7. Integrate Modern Biology, Inc. into your biology curriculum.
Modern Biology, Inc. helps students use scientific facts to learn scientific method. Every Modern Biology, Inc. experiment is designed to give students an opportunity to state and test a hypothesis, based on your lectures. Then your students go into the lab, all the materials needed for the experiment provided by Modern Biology, Inc., and exercise scientific thinking to answer their own questions.
Modern Biology, Inc. reinforces verbal learning with kinesthetic learning. It teaches your students essential laboratory skills and laboratory techniques they will use through every course they take in high school or as an undergraduate. And Modern Biology, Inc. offers these learning experiences and individual biology experiments at a price you can fit into your budget.
Do you have questions? Call Modern Biology, Inc. at (765) 446-4220 or send us an email today!