A teacher's method of instruction, use of materials and planning can all affect a student's success. To become an effective teacher of Biology, a teacher should use a variety of methods to make the Biology curriculum accessible to students of different cognitive levels and learning styles. Teachers should continually evaluate the effectiveness of their chosen methods by measuring student progress.
Direct instruction is the method that dominates many biology classrooms. Because of the amount of information that must be given to students, lectures are the easiest way to give the most information in the smallest amount of time. Teachers must also be careful not to forget about learners who do not respond well to lectures. Teachers can effectively appeal to different learning styles through direct instruction by adding visuals, graphic organizers and video clips to their lectures. Visual learners will benefit from looking at pictures of a cell or DNA and watching the process of photosynthesis on video. Graphic organizers will help learners organize lecture notes and process new information.
Labs and Activities
The benefits of teaching students through hands-on activities are plentiful. In biology, labs and activities can reinforce new materials and allow the student to experience firsthand the science of life. While teachers are still able to instruct the students during lab time, students become more in charge of their own learning and are able to make their own connections and discoveries. An effective teacher will use labs and activities to create interest in a subject, provide answers to hypotheses and to motivate students to research more about the topic.
An effective teacher uses different teaching strategies to appeal to all types of learners in the classroom. The use of technology is becoming more varied in the classroom setting. Accessibility of computers, streaming videos and Smart Boards allow for interactive activities, web quests and supplemental video or audio additions to a lecture. For teachers who do not have access to much technology, overhead projectors, slides and a television can still be used to effectively share information with students. There are a variety of biology-related programs on channels such as Discovery and PBS.
Explicit vocabulary instruction has been linked to higher reading comprehension in students. Biology textbooks can be difficult for students to comprehend. Teaching unknown words before each unit will help students access the information and allow them to gain better reading comprehension from the text. Effective vocabulary instruction includes defining words, teaching word meaning by defining roots, prefixes and suffixes, and providing students with multiple exposure to the word in grade level texts. Teachers can reinforce vocabulary instruction by having students draw pictures, use the words in a sentence, group like words together and use context clues to deepen the understanding of the word.
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