The Use of Current Events to Enhance Student Learning in Agricultural Genetics 1

By Bormann, Jennifer Minick; Rolf, Megan M. | NACTA Journal, March 2018 | Go to article overview

The Use of Current Events to Enhance Student Learning in Agricultural Genetics 1


Bormann, Jennifer Minick, Rolf, Megan M., NACTA Journal


Introduction

Genetics is among the subjects that biology teachers rank as most important and most difficult for high school students to learn (Stewart, 1982; Johnstone and Mahmoud, 1980). Science educators have been encouraged to utilize strategies that provide students an opportunity to relate abstract scientific ideas to real-world applications, because these types of activities should assist students in gaining long-term knowledge and skills (Allen and Tanner, 2005). Incorporating evaluation of current events that relate to subjects taught in class has the potential to help reinforce learning in the classroom. Genetics is a rapidly-evolving field, and is featured in the mainstream and agricultural press almost daily. There is little information in the literature describing the effect of incorporating current events into the classroom. A study conducted at a pharmacy school suggested that writing a current events paper helped increase students' understanding of the material (Kelsch, 2010). The incorporation of current events or news articles into the curriculum may also have other advantages, because much of an individual's knowledge of advancements in science will come through the media, and not through a classroom or textbook (Kachan et al., 2006). Teaching students to critically evaluate the stories they encounter in the media and giving them the opportunity to practice integrating classroom knowledge into what they read in print and online media should help them make value judgments based on scientific information in the future.

There are many ways that current events can be incorporated into the classroom. This study compares two different approaches: writing papers individually versus a team-based video project. In-class writing assignments administered in animal science courses have been shown to increase perceived ability to express ideas in writing and more confidence in writing graded compositions (Trojan et al., 2016). Because 58% of students indicated that writing assignments helped them better understand the course material and 65% rated them relevant and useful to overall learning, Trojan et al. (2016) concluded that writing assignments were a successful mechanism for increasing writing skills and enhancing comprehension of the course content. With the writing assignment described in this study (Trojan et al., 2016), students are required to analyze a number of articles, and their individual understanding of the content and topic can be assessed. In contrast, the team-based video assignment does not allow for this type of individualized assessment for each student. However, it does incorporate peer-assisted learning, which has been shown to be an effective way to promote achievement, and fosters the ability for students to work collaboratively with one another (Schunk, 2012). Further, it has been suggested that team-based learning has a positive impact on development of "soft skills" that are important in the workplace as well as enhancing student enjoyment (Artz et al., 2016).

The objective of this study was to determine if the incorporation of current event papers or a group video project into the curriculum enhanced student learning in agricultural genetics.

Materials and Methods

In the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry (ASI) at Kansas State University (K-State), Genetics is a sophomore/junior level class that is required for all ASI majors. It has a prerequisite of a general biology course (general zoology or botany) and itself is a prerequisite for Animal Breeding Principles, which focuses on applications of quantitative genetics. Genetics is also a service course for the College of Agriculture, as it is required by some options in the departments ofAgronomy and Horticulture, and is a choice as an agriculture elective for other majors, such as Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Communications. Therefore, while the majority of enrolled students are ASI majors, there are many different agricultural disciplines represented. …

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