Teaching landscape ecology: the importance of field-oriented, inquiry-based approaches
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Landscape ecology has traditionally been taught through theoretical classes or computer labs. On the other hand, field labs have been generally less used as a way of teaching landscape ecology concepts.
We show that field labs with an inquiry-based approach, where students are involved in the investigation, are feasible for training students in landscape ecology. We evaluated how common field labs are in landscape ecology courses, and also their contribution for student learning.
We evaluated whether field labs are used in landscape ecology courses by scanning available syllabi. We also used outcomes from a course offered in Brazil to show how field labs can be integrated into landscape ecology courses.
Only 18.2 % of the 44 syllabi we found had field labs. The case study developed in Brazil showed that field labs allowed students to develop important skills, including the ability to design field studies, choose appropriate scales of analysis, detect ecological patterns, and judge multiple hypotheses.
Field labs are still uncommon in landscape ecology courses, but they can be a useful tool to teach landscape ecology concepts and to help students developing the necessary skills to do research. We offer recommendations regarding how to incorporate field labs in landscape ecology courses.
KeywordsField-oriented labs Inquiry-based learning Procedural knowledge Skills development
We thank the Brazilian students that attended the two courses, and the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Nicholas J. Locke of the Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA), for the support for the courses. Financial support was provided by PNPD-CAPES (scholarship to M. A. Gomes, Process No. 2923/2011 ), FAPESP (scholarship to J. A. Prevedello, Process No. 2013/03457-1) and CNPq (research fellowship to JP Metzger, Process No. 307934/2011-0). We also thank Amanda Northrop for reviewing the English on a previous version of the manuscript.
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