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Why does experimentation matter in teaching ecology?

Finn, H., Maxwell, M. and Calver, M.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9082-2902 (2002) Why does experimentation matter in teaching ecology? Journal of Biological Education, 36 (4). pp. 158-162.

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The inquiry-based approach is an important component of secondary school biology curricula. However, we found that common Australian texts included little coverage of controlled experimentation in ecological practical work. The logistical and ethical difficulties in designing suitable ecological practicals may be a factor in these observations, as well as a perception that investigations of the complex interrelationships in ecology require scientific approaches other than experimentation. We argue that because controlled experiments are used extensively by professional ecologists to solve both theoretical and applied problems, experimentation should be a key component of secondary school ecology curricula. We suggest five teaching principles to guide secondary school biology teachers in providing a more realistic view of the possibilities and limitations of ecological experimentation. We also review ways in which computer simulations and microcosm experiments can be used to overcome logistical and ethical problems and allow students to design and implement ecological experiments. Whether based in the classroom or the field, the use of experimental approaches in secondary school ecology curricula illustrates ecological concepts, reinforces principles of experimental design and highlights the value of the inquiry-based approach in biological education.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Institute of Biology
Copyright: Paper reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
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