(Reprinted from http://blogs.uco.edu/tts/able-enabled-me/)
by Rebecca Williams —
I recently attended the annual Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE) conference in Houston. The ABLE conference encouraged me to make my Entomology course at the University of Central Oklahoma more transformative. Before the conference I planned out many exercises, nearly covering the entire semester. However, it was mostly identification of families or of morphological characters. This is the way most entomology classes are administered at the introductory level. However, attending the ABLE conference has encouraged me to devote at least a small part of the semester to developing students’ scientific reasoning skills. I am putting together an exercise requiring students to research the Zika virus, make a hypothesis about mosquito populations in their own backyard, then test that hypothesis by gathering data. This exercise will add a potentially transformative component to my course, which will hopefully interest students even more in the science of entomology.
There is not a lab associated with my Biology I for majors course; however, the next step in the students’ course work requires them to leap into a challenging laboratory course. Therefore, I attempt to develop students’ hypothesis-testing skills in the lecture class. The ABLE conference gave me even more ideas for developing exercises to enhance my course. At Oklahoma State University (my alma mater), introductory biology students participate in a laboratory course that is entirely student-centered. The students develop their hypotheses, design their own experiments, collect their own data, etc. None of the planning is done for them. Although I have not developed an exercise like this for my Biology I course here at my institution, I will be developing one in the near future. This type of exercise will surely be transformative and better prepare them for the next step in their course work.