Student Engagement Strategies for Introductory Soil Science.
Ken Barbarick, Colorado State Univ, Dept of Soil and Crop Sciences, C127 Plant Sciences Bldg, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1170
The most important goal for a successful Introductory Soil Science course, no matter where it is taught, is “student engagement”. Several methods or activities can accomplish this aspiration in lecture and laboratory settings. First and foremost, learn your students' names by taking and then studying individual photographs. In lecture, use structured outlines so students do not have to copy diagrams or definitions but still must write out problem solutions and examples. Pose frequent questions and call on individual students to answer them. Take “mini” breaks during lecture to help re-focus student attention. Give frequent (up to almost weekly) exams based on a thorough set of course objectives. Provide equations on exams to suppress the urge to cheat. For every major topic, show several diagrams and photographs of local to global interest. In labs, if possible, keep class size to 20 or less and address only 2 or 3 key points each session. Have the students work on all in-class exercises in groups of 3 or 4, thus increasing the opportunity for collaborative learning. Keep the students busy with lab measurements or calculations. Utilize hand-held portable devices rather than large-scale equipment. Outside of class, assign each student to develop a PowerPoint presentation or poster on some aspect of soil science that is related to their major field of study or that is a special interest of theirs. Keeping students active in lecture and lab will lead to a successful learning experience.