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Tips, tricks and techniques for biology teachers

01/12/2020 Anthony

Engaging students is a key priority for any teacher, particularly in the STEM subjects where popularity has fallen in recent years. For biology teachers, there’s inspiration all around you – but it can still be difficult to make the subject more interesting and accessible for students. Start by tapping into your students’ natural curiosity of life, making biology relevant to them by relating topics taught in the classroom with their everyday lives. This form of integrative learning has many benefits, including improved student learning retention and creative thinking. Even if biology isn’t a student’s strong point, it can easily become their favourite subject when taught in a way that encourages and rewards participation. Take a look at our tips on planning and delivering engaging biology lessons that inspire the best results from your pupils:

Biology teacher standing with pupils in classroom

Variety in teaching

One of the key ways to engage students in any subject is by alternating between teaching styles so that the classroom doesn’t become predictable and stagnant. It’s useful to remember that students learn in all different ways, so alternating teaching styles regularly not only keeps them more engaged but allows some students more opportunities to learn in accordance with their learning style. A recent survey found that 22.8% of respondents prefer kinaesthetic learning, making it the most popular learning style and beating auditory, visual and read/write by an impressive margin. 

By offering a range of materials such as textbooks, podcasts, videos and games, this will enable different kinds of learners to absorb the greatest amount of information from them. In addition, there are various methods to help students learn a topic including lecturing, concept mapping, discussions, reading and allowing for cooperative student learning or assigning practical activities. Access the National STEM Learning Centre’s Planning and Organising Practical Activities course for free and discover how you can use kinaesthetic learning to create stimulating STEM activities for your biology classroom. Take your approach to teaching one step further and introduce STEM activities as a reward. Rewarding good behaviour forms the basis of several behaviour management strategies and enforces the idea that practical activities make learning fun.

Apply biology practically

Sometimes in life, instead of giving advice, we allow those around us to learn lessons for themselves so they can truly retain the information. The same method can be applied in the classroom and has proven to be very effective.
Allow your students to feel like professional researchers by setting them achievable experimental tasks based on the hypothesis-test-conclusion format. A Harvard study showed that this form of active learning facilitates deeper learning which in turn can improve information retention and exam scores. It can also be more engaging than sitting at a desk writing down information as students have to be present and focused on the task at hand. This way, students can learn and absorb this new information for themselves.

To bring biology to life, consider setting active tasks. For instance:

  • Learn about the life cycle by raising butterflies or chicks
  • Explore photosynthesis by planting a garden
  • Dissect specimens to learn about anatomy
  • Dry/press plants and label their anatomy
  • Test samples of yeast to test their live/dead status
  • View/analyse different kinds of cells under the microscope

Doing this also cultivates skills in team building, creativity, research and development, and critical thinking.
There are also many educational, biology-centric games that can be utilised to assess knowledge such as Jeopardy, Taboo, Pictionary and 20 questions. Take a look at Askabiologist for a collection of biology-centric online games to further extend students’ knowledge.Biology field trips

Hosting biology-centred field trips provides a change of pace from the traditional classroom and can bring about a host of benefits that encourage student engagement and learning.

Showing practical biology in action can reinforce the lessons taught in class and cement them in your students’ minds. Consider visiting a local park, wilderness reserve, farm or botanical garden to allow students to see, in person, the topics they were learning about. Similarly, a trip to a science museum or research lab can open pupils’ eyes to the vast progress humans have made in science, highlighting life-saving inventions from the past or current innovations in pharmaceuticals.

Incorporate technology

Keeping a classroom engaged can be difficult, and some will prove more challenging than others. It’s important to know how to cope with stress as a teacher but also use all the tools you have at your disposable to help command the attention of your students. Students interact with technology on a daily basis and are therefore comfortable and open to being taught through this medium. Technology, and the array of information on the internet, can be utilised in the classroom to innovatively teach biology.

Technology can engage all different kinds of students as it caters to a variety of learning styles including auditory, visual and kinaesthetic. There are many educational resources available online that can be utilised both in the planning and execution of teaching biology. For inspiration, check out the Royal Society of Biology and The Science Teacher for teaching resources. Through technology, it’s possible to see 3D models of DNA and interactive animated dissections which may be more ethical and accessible in the classroom. Computer simulations are a great way of visually exploring a range of topics from molecular biology to evolution and can be a safe and effective form of introducing students to laboratory work.In addition, it’s possible to assess students’ knowledge and retention of biology through online quizzes and present homework to them digitally. This can also lead to a more streamlined, automated marking process, which saves you time and can provide students with instant feedback and corrections.

Let Teaching Personnel help you find your next Biology teacher job

At Teaching Personnel, we’re looking for teachers who are driven by the satisfaction of seeing their students learn. But we understand that the role of a teacher is more than tracking progress, it’s supporting students facing stress and anxiety, belonging to a network of dedicated education staff and making a difference. We want to offer our support in return and make it our goal to help each candidate find the role and school that’s right for them. Apply for a job as a biology teacher with us today.

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