Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Using Biological-Control Research in the Classroom to Promote Scientific Inquiry & Literacy

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Using Biological-Control Research in the Classroom to Promote Scientific Inquiry & Literacy

Article excerpt

Biological control is a well-established field of applied ecology in which pest species are managed through the use of predators, parasites, pathogens, herbivores, or other natural mechanisms. Scientists who research biological control should be involved in science education because translating research programs into classroom activities is a pathway to increase scientific literacy among students. For example, activities for the classroom that focus on biological control help students learn the process of scientific inquiry, target all levels of biological organization, and are cross-disciplinary by drawing from subject areas such as ecology, molecular biology, physiology, chemistry, and integrated pest management.

Educators at all grade levels are interested in activities for life sciences that target multiple levels of biological organization and are cross-disciplinary, and science-education journals disseminate activities for the classroom. Research scientists are minimally involved in these journals, in part because of their unfamiliarity with publishing in the field of science education (Richardson, 2010), but scientists should disseminate their knowledge of science education as broadly as their research programs because of the potentially positive impact on society and the field of science.

Having a citizenship that is well educated in science is a lofty, but necessary, goal because citizens sponsor science and offer input into public policies that influence science. However, 25% of students who graduated from high school in the United States in 2009 completed a science curriculum that was below standard (Nord et al., 2011). Educators and policymakers have called for increasing emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in schools to create a workforce that can compete globally and keep pace with expanding scientific and technical expertise (President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2010). Scientists can help create a culture of science by dispelling negative stereotypical images of scientists (Richardson & Mitchell, 2010), being involved in the teaching process, and contributing activities that require students to engage in cognitive tasks performed by scientists.

Biological control is a subject area that is amenable for a constructivist pedagogical approach that facilitates student-centered inquiry for all grades, meets National Science Education Standards (NSES; National Research Council, 1996), and, as previously mentioned, promotes scientific literacy. We review biological-control activities for the classroom that were published in refereed journals to determine (1) the level of involvement of biologicalcontrol researchers in education and whether involvement is influenced by gender or employer, (2) which topics of biological control are taught and which are neglected, (3) whether the activities meet NSES standards to promote scientific inquiry and literacy, and (4) whether the activities use an effective teaching style (i.e., constructivist pedagogy) to improve students' skills in scientific inquiry and literacy. We also provide an example of how our research in biological control can be adapted for the classroom with the hope that scientists will use it as a reference when converting their research programs into classroom activities.

* Methods

We reviewed all "how-to" articles for the classroom published from 2000 through August 2011 in three refereed journals: The American Biology Teacher (targets primary, secondary, and college education), Journal of Biological Education (mainly targets primary and secondary education), and Scientific Activities (targets primary and secondary education). We also reviewed "how-to" articles published from 2004 through August 2011 in Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (targets college education). We noted the total number of how-to articles and those that directly or indirectly discussed concepts from the field of biological control. …

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