Cameras, competition and creativity: assessing 1st year ecology in the field
AbstractThe great outdoors is the laboratory for most studies in ecology. This article reports on the use of cameras, competition and creativity as novel ways to assess learning during a one-day field trip for a large (~600 students) introductory biology/ecology course. Among the assessment activities, students find and photograph examples of various types of ecological interactions, create a dichotomous plant key in the lab and apply it in the field, and evaluate the potential impact of various environmental change scenarios on ecosystems. The activities and accompanying assessment foster higher order thinking (such as application, evaluation and synthesis) and better retention of knowledge because students create their own context for concepts and content, which have traditionally been learned by rote approaches. This article provides practical advice on how to implement this type of assessment.