NOYD, ROBERT K. Department of Biology, U. S. Air Force Academy, USAF Academy, CO 80840-6226. - Connecting classroom concepts to the local flora: The Plant Profile Project.
Assessments show that students often fail to connect concepts and
details presented in the classroom to specific plant species in
nature. A semester-long project, called the plant profile, has
students building a database of information concerning the biology of
a single plant species from the local flora. Students use web-based
and library resources, along with lecture material, to gather
information or make predictions about the biology of the whole plant.
The database is built through a series of assignments that coincide
with topics addressed in class. Topics include plant classification,
life history, photosynthesis (pathway, pigments, rate), anatomy (root
and shoot structures), morphology, genetics (chromosome number, genome
size), reproduction (floral formula, pollination syndrome, dispersal
mechanisms), and ecology (habitat, relative resource requirements). A
final profile serves as an organizational framework that reviews and
anchors relevant details of the course. Through student surveys and
feedback from the past eight semesters, the plant profile project was
found to enhance many aspects of the teaching-learning process.
Profiles enhanced learning by engaging students to actively
reconstruct concepts and patterns in relation to a plant that they
have experienced. From a teaching perspective, profile assignments
served as an excellent assessment tool that readily exposed a
student's lack of understanding or misconceptions. The project created
a classroom of student "experts," which increased the
quality and quantity of student to student, and student to teacher
interactions. The project is "phenotypically plastic," or
easily modified to match course content and meet teacher goals.
Key words: teaching pedagogy, whole plant biology