Dr. Julie Sircom has noticed something
about the way students study – they don’t use their textbooks effectively.
“They just go though in a very linear way and
highlight almost everything,” she said, adding that there is little differentiation
in what is important in the text and what isn’t. “The texts are highlighted
from beginning to end, and then the students don’t get much for the book if
they sell it back at the end of the term.”
So Dr. Sircom set her sights on creating a
teaching and learning model that would connect students with their texts in a
more meaningful fashion.
“I started looking for ways to use
textbooks more effectively,” she said, “such as using the ‘flipped’ model
versus the traditional model.”
Biology 2210 is a survey course that covers
a large amount of material pertaining to taxonomy, defining features and
similarities among animals with backbones. It’s a lot of ground to cover.
“I wanted to get them working with one
another and with me, and to find a more effective use of everybody’s time.”
Dr. Sircom decided to switch things up a
bit, getting them to do more prep ahead of time, so they could be more active
and engaged in the classroom. She developed her own lecture videos that the
students could watch in advance as an to intro the topic at hand, and also used
online videos to support their learning – such as a video of metamorphosis of a
tadpole to a frog. Each video had a short online quiz so students could test
their understanding of the material.
In the classroom, she would continue with a
short lecture where the video left off and then have students participate in an
activity that had them use their textbook in a less linear way, searching through the text
for important points on a topic.
“It really got them using their textbooks,
synthesizing the information,” she said. “They reported that they liked this
model – the activities, the quizzes and the technology.”
Dr. Sircom said she continues to use
aspects of this model in subsequent courses. If you would like to learn more
about biology at Grenfell Campus, visit http://www.grenfell.mun.ca/academics-and-research/Pages/school-of-science-and-the-environment/programs/environmental-science/Biology.aspx.