The teaching section of TIEE complements the Issues and Experiments sections and helps you learn more about student-active teaching and learning. This section will connect faculty to resources specific to the ecological educational activities in TIEE as well as to nationally recognized resources in science education.

What do you want to know? (click on a question and jump to the answer below)

I don't know anything about student-active teaching. Where should I begin?

There are several ways that you can use TIEE to get an introduction to this type of teaching. You could start by reading a short essay "What is Student-Active Teaching?", which is a brief overview of college and university reforms nationwide and includes a definition of student-active teaching and learning.

In addition, see the TIEE Glossary of educational terms which will provide an overview of many of the innovative educational methods and related topics addressed in TIEE.

The Issues to Teach Ecology contributions in TIEE will be especially useful to faculty who have little or no experience with student-active teaching approaches. Read the overview to Issues to Teach Ecology: Overview and start out with an approach such as "turn to your neighbor" that is easy to use, doesn't take much class time or preparation, and that you can readily modify and try again. Most people change their teaching by starting small and going from there.

One purpose of TIEE is to help faculty get started experimenting with their teaching and give them the information to continue that effort on their own. It is very hard to make major changes in courses alone; most people want and need to work with others in workshops and similar settings.

Fortunately there is a great deal of interest in college science teaching reform now and there are many web resources, networks, and workshops to choose from. Please use the TIEE Resource Links to find websites and other information on science educational innovation, as well as links to email discussion lists such as EcoEd.


I already use active approaches in my courses. How will TIEE help me?

One purpose of TIEE is to give new ideas to faculty already experienced with non-traditional teaching and ways to go beyond what they are already doing. The Issues to Teach Ecology section contains a variety of approaches for lecture-discussion courses that you may not have tried. For courses including labs, the Experiments to Teach Ecology section may include components that are new to you or labs you would like to use.

If you are making changes to your courses, we urge you to evaluate your efforts. Evaluation (also called assessment by some) is a way to determine how well the changes are working. Formative evaluation is especially important. Formative evaluation looks at the course along the way and its purpose is to give ongoing diagnosis and feedback so that you can modify your teaching if needed. For an overview of evaluation see "Evaluation of Course Reforms: A primer on what it is and why you should do it" from Ecology 101 in the ESA Bulletin.

It is helpful to share ideas, successes, and challenges as you try new teaching approaches in TIEE. You can communicate with other ecology faculty via the EcoEd discussion list. You can also send your feedback directly to TIEE to be posted in the Bulletin Board section associated with each TIEE Issue and Experiment.


I teach big classes. What methods in active teaching can I use?

Actively working with students in large classes is a challenge but certainly can be done. Faculty with large classes in a wide range of institutions use Informal Groupwork activities such as Turn-to-Your-Neighbor on a regular basis. For example, you can project a question dealing with a concept, a figure, or a simple table for the class to see. Then, ask your class to discuss the question or data with people sitting near them. Bring the class back together and next ask them for their answers or questions. This is a good way to stimulate discussion and to interest your students in a topic before you lecture on it.

This approach and others that can in used in large and small classes is described in more detail in the Issues to Teach Ecology: Overview section of TIEE. There are also links to references concerning large classes in the TIEE Resource Links page. See the TIEE Glossary entries for Problem Based Learning and Formal Groupwork, which work well in medium sized classes (up to 50 students).


I already use inquiry labs. How will TIEE labs help me?

The labs in the Experiments to Teach Ecology section of TIEE are have been written by faculty in a wide range of institutions. As a consequence they are rich in examples of ways to engage students in a question, how students work together in groups, methods for presentation of student work, different forms of assessment of students, and ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the lab.

We are seeking inquiry-based labs from faculty to include in TIEE. If you are interested in finding out more about submitting an Issue or Experiment to TIEE or reviewing TIEE submissions, please go to the SUBMIT WORK page. Your lab will be peer-reviewed by other ESA faculty. We believe that such peer-reviewed work can in used in reappointment and promotion files in many institutions.


How may I communicate with other ecology professors about student-active teaching?

An important aspect of TIEE is the ability for faculty to communicate with one another as they try new teaching approaches.


Where do I look for educational information on a specific topic?

There is a TIEE Glossary of educational terms which will provide an overview of many of the innovative educational methods and related topics addressed in TIEE.

In addition, the TIEE Resource Links page is organized by type of teaching approach and other educational topics. If what you are looking for is not in the glossary or links, you could try posting a question on the EcoEd list serv.


Where do I look for information about workshops?

Workshops are an excellent way to experience first hand new teaching approaches. Those involved in education reform conduct workshops at the ESA Annual Meetings (details at ESA's main web site and at the ESA Education Section).

In addition, Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) organizes faculty enhancement workshops.


Teaching reform takes time. How can I get more credit for this work?

The time needed to revise courses is one of the most challenging aspects of science teaching reform, and this problem is different for faculty at different types of institutions. In universities, most faculty are engaged in research and time used to revise courses is usually time away from research. In addition, teaching is not rewarded as highly as research in many universities. At the other extreme, in smaller colleges and universities faculty may carry very heavy teaching loads and simply do not have time to work on their teaching.

Given these and other constraints, faculty must believe that the time they manage to invest in changing their teaching is worth the effort. This is why the peer review aspect of TIEE is so important. Peer review of Issues and Experiments submitted to TIEE elevates these efforts to a high professional level. We hope that with peer review and rigorous evaluation of teaching will help reform the institutional reward system in colleges and universities (see American Association for Higher Education's roles and rewards section). For an overview of evaluation see "Evaluation of Course Reforms: A primer on what it is and why you should do it" from Ecology 101 in the ESA Bulletin.