Cornell University has invested in new pedagogical methods through their Active Learning Initiative (ALI). The ALI funds departments to work on transforming their courses to include active and engaged methods. EEB has received two of these grants, the first to transform our large gateway courses (Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and Introduction to Ecology and the Environment) and adopt active learning methods in these large classrooms. The second grant is to study the feasibility of incorporating active learning in online courses.
We now have abundant data showing that active and team-based learning methods improve classroom climate, and make learning more accessible to all students. A recent article published in Ezra Magazine shows that students benefit from working together to solve problems, and this in turn positively affects learning and student performance.
Our Evolution course is highlighted in the active learning video. It is an exciting time to teach at Cornell!
A new paper, led by Cissy Ballen (former active learning post-doc and now Assistant Professor at Auburn), just published in Bioscience! Data from a large number of classes across multiple institutions show that large classes reduce equity in classroom participation, especially by women. Active learning can make up some of that classroom deficit by making big classrooms feel smaller.
How can instructors promote equitable participation in science classrooms? Smaller classes and diverse teaching strategies play big roles.
Cornell Chronicle wrote an article about our paper.
Cait McDonald has taught many courses in EEB over the course of her graduate career, and excelled at all of them. This week she was named an Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant by Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Here she is with her certificate and a heavy golden apple! Congratulations Cait!
Every year our Herpetology Class goes to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland, an AZA accredited zoo that focuses on reptile and amphibian diversity. We get a warm welcome from Mr. Peeling himself, get a behind the scenes tour, and then marvel at the intricate exhibits that are designed and fabricated by Clyde’s sons. A wonderful Zoo! And who would have thunk one could see courting Komodo dragons in Pennsylvania!
Maybe you already knew this, but our winters are looong, so it makes it even more special to witness the salamander migration to the breeding ponds. This is the real sign that winter has lost its grip on Ithaca!
Our Herpetology class has been waiting for this for weeks! And sure enough… it happens on the Friday before Spring Break when most students have left campus. Tonight Jordan, Nicole, and KZ took the few Herpetology students and Cornell Herp Society members that are still on campus to Bull Pasture Pond. We saw a bunch of Ambystoma jeffersonianum and A. maculatum, learned about sexual interference by spermatophore capping in spotted salamanders, and instagrammed the hell out of the salamanders making their way to the pond. It’s our own special herpetology ritual 🙂