- What thoughts cross your mind when preparing to teach students about plants?
How do you prepare yourself?
What type of student reactions do you prepare for?
What would you do if you had the money, space and time to teach botany any way you wanted?
In their very interesting paper, Elementary Botany: How Teachers in One School District Teach About Plants, Melanie A. Link-Perez and Elisabeth E. Schussler address the questions above as they begin their investigation into how K-12 teachers teach botany.
In 2006, Link-Perez and Schussler (2013) interviewed 13 elementary school teachers about their experiences teaching plant biology. The teachers interviewed were all female and were a mix of both new and experienced teachers. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and then evaluated for recurring themes (Link-Perez and Schussler, 2013). Data collected were teachers’ “self-reported experiences in teaching about plants, in order to assess their comfort level and experiences in botanical instruction” (Link-Perez and Schussler, 2013).
The research questions Link-Perez and Schussler (2013) wanted to investigate were:
- How do teachers feel about teaching plant content?
- What types of activities are used to teach about plants?
- How do students react to lessons about plants?
- Is there anything teachers need to help them teach about plants?
After evaluating teacher interviews, Link-Perez and Schussler (2013) categorized themes according to their research questions above. Here is a quick summary of their findings:
How did teachers feel about teaching plant biology?
Teachers stated they were comfortable leading lessons about plants, even though most of the teachers claimed to have no (or very little) training in botany.
How did teachers teach about plants in their classrooms?
Teachers reported using their own activities to supplement the textbook given to them by their school district. Teachers also mentioned they do the same activities repeatedly and that some students complain about having to repeat a plant lesson they completed in an earlier grade.
What did teachers have to say about how students react to learning about plants?
Teachers stated that, while students like to grow plants, their enthusiasm and attention span for learning about plants dies quickly.
What did teachers say they need to teach about plants in their classroom?
Teachers expressed a need to find a better way of managing light, temperature and water in their classrooms. They also stated the need for more space.
Using teacher feedback and these themes as a guide, Link-Perez and Schussler (2013) offer two recommendations to anyone interested in enhancing botany instruction within their school district: 1) Provide teacher training in the plant sciences and 2) Help teachers develop curriculum so they can stop teaching the same lessons over and over again.
Learn more about the research conducted by Link-Perez and Schussler and the history of botany education by obtaining a copy of this article online. This article is available for free from the Botanical Society of America.
Link-Perez, Melanie A. and Elisabeth E. Schussler. 2013. Elementary botany: How teachers in one school district teach about plants. Plant Science Bulletin. 59(3): 99-110. Web. http://www.botany.org/plantsciencebulletin/PSB-2013-59-3.pdf [accessed 2 October 2013]
What a Plant Knows
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More About ArtPlantae’s Teaching & Learning Column
ArtPlantae is participating in Connected Educator Month. As a participant in this wonderful event, I would like to welcome readers who are reading this column for the first time. This weekly column is published on Friday. Through this column we explore the links between drawing and knowing (knowing plants, specifically). To read past columns by myself and guest contributors, please see the “Teaching & Learning” section in the right margin of this page. Thank you for joining us online.