Coates Uses Blog to Help Teach Scientific Method to Non-Science Majors

Dr. Craig Coates teaching a class in Spring 2017. Photo by Rob Williams

Dr. Craig Coates teaching students in the ENTO322: Insects in Human Society class. The students learn about the scientific method by analyzing insect research and its real-world applications—a pursuit in which a certain blog about entomology plays a role. Photo by Rob Williams

Since the course was created more than 20 years ago, the Entomology 322 Insects and Human Society has given insight into the diverse world of insects to all non-science and non-entomology majors at Texas A&M University.

To help students better understand the Scientific Method and scientific writing, Instructional Associate Professor Dr. Craig Coates recently started using a popular insect and entomology blog to help his students to understand how scientists use the scientific method to solve problems and find discoveries in the field of entomology, as well as other sciences.

According to the Entomological Society of America’s “Entomology Today” website the primary purpose of the blog is to showcase entomologists’ research and other news in the world of entomology in a format that is relevant to entomologists while being easy to understand by the general public.

The idea for the assignments came to him after talking to a colleague about other ways to help students learn how entomology affects them in an easy way that they could understand. Coates said the course is mainly geared for and has a majority of students that are non-majors that have not taken a high-level science course before.

“The blog’s writing style is very accessible and great for our students and was a very good fit for the class as a whole,” he said. “This is a very nice entry point for our students into the science of entomology and they get exposed to a lot of different scientific articles and species of insects each week.”

Each week, Coates said that each student is assigned to read an article from the blog and write a short summary of what the article identifying the different elements of the scientific method that was mentioned and then say how this article impacts human society overall.

To grade the assignment, Coates used a peer-review process in which each student will end up reading and analyzing three to five posts per week. Most of the work was handled by using the e-Campus system, as well as a peer reviewing software called Peerceptiv that was built into the learning management system, he said.

Coates also added that his teaching assistants handled most of the article selections, which revolved around a theme each week on different topics regarding insects and their impact on human society.

Since he started it in 2015, Coates said that students have learned a lot from reading the articles and that students have loved working the assignment.

“The feedback has been very positive and the students have really been improving in their writing each week,” Coates said.

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