Submitted to: The American Biology Teacher
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 16, 2012
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Citation: Richardson, M.L., Richardson, S.L., Hall, D.G. 2012. Using biological control research in the classroom to promote scientific inquiry and literacy. The American Biology Teacher. 74(7):445-451.
Interpretive Summary: Many scientists who research biological control also teach at universities or more informally through cooperative outreach efforts. We reviewed 205 published articles (2000-2011) in four refereed education journals, and only 13 of the articles directly or indirectly discussed concepts from the field of biological control. Only four of the 13 articles emphasized the importance of biological control and proposed educational activities that explicitly focused on this subject area. However, there is a myriad of topics related to biological control that could be presented in the classroom to increase student awareness and interest. We provide example activities for the classroom from our research program that introduces principles of biological control, meets National Science Education Standards, and uses an inquiry-based constructivist pedagogical approach. Many research scientists are also heavily involved in education, and it would be valuable for them to publish in education journals information pertaining to biological control along with specific classroom activities to assist other educators at all grade levels, to improve science education for students, and ultimately to create a stronger culture of science.
Many scientists who research biological control also teach at universities or more informally through cooperative outreach. The purpose of this paper is to review biological control activities for the classroom in four refereed journals, The American Biology Teacher, Journal of Biological Education, Scientific Activities, and Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, to determine: 1) whether involvement by scientists in science education is influenced by gender or employer; 2) which topics of biological control are taught and which are neglected; 3) whether the activities meet National Science Education Standards (NSES); and 4) whether the activities use an effective teaching style (i.e., inquiry-based constructivist) to meet the learning styles of students. We reviewed a total of 205 articles published from 2000-2011 and only 13 directly or indirectly discussed concepts from the field of biological control. Over 73 percent of the authors of science education articles are women, but women represented only ~17 percent of authors on articles published in Biological Control during the same time period. Authors of Biological Control articles were predominately affiliated with public universities and government, whereas the authors of science education articles had more diverse affiliations and private universities and non-governmental organizations were more heavily represented. Only four of the 13 articles emphasize the importance of biological control and present an activity that explicitly focuses on this subject area. Despite the low number of published activities, the biological control agents and pest species used in the activities are diverse, focusing on fungi, invertebrates, and vertebrates. However, the list of topics from the field of biological control neglected in the literature is extensive and we suggest that scientists publish more activities from all areas of biological control. Activities that investigate interactions between more than two species, investigate multiple levels of biological organization, focus on current debates in science, and meet more of the content standards of NSES and appropriate teaching strategies are especially needed. We provide an example activity for the classroom from our research program that introduces principles of biological control, meets NSES guidelines, and uses an inquiry-based constructivist pedagogical approach, which we believe is the most effective for science classrooms. In conclusion, we know that many scientists are heavily involved in education, so they need to share their classroom activities to ensure that they are vetted as rigorously as their research programs, to assist other educators at all grade levels, to improve science education for students, and ultimately to create a stronger culture of science.