It’s a high-class listicle appearing in a serious place. Leading off the June 15th issue of the journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell comes a short feature by Erin L. Dolan and James P. Collins offering four ways to become instantly (sort of) better at teaching life science. The MBoC listicle does not contain four things that big banks don’t want you to know or 10 ways to tell that you grew up in the 1990s. Instead Dolan et al. offer four well-researched, classroom-tested, fully footnoted ideas you should adopt at once to keep students awake in your biology class.
In classic backwards listicle format, here are “Four Top Tips for Bio Teachers”
4) Expect students to talk, write, and collaborate
3) Post “messy” problems for students to solve
2) Expect students to learn more than facts.
1) Design your course from back to front, i.e., start with what students should be able to do at the end of your course (Think critically? Understand the energetics of a biochemical reaction?). Then write your curriculum backwards from the last week to the first week.
Unsurprisingly Dolan, who is the Editor-in-Chief of MBoC’s sister journal, CBE—Life Sciences Education (LSE), is an expert on the new empirical research demonstrating that active learning is the best way to teach life sciences effectively in the 21st century. Dolan is at the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science at the University of Texas, Austin. Co-author Collins, who is at Arizona State University, Tempe, is on the LSE Editorial Board.