Enhancing botany teaching and learning with Problem/Project-based Learning (PBL) approaches at a federal institution in Sao Paulo State, Brazil
Botany contents, specifically taxonomy and morphology, have been reported as extremely difficult, uninteresting and even irksome by Brazilian undergraduate Biology and Biological Sciences students. Recent systematical reviews of several vegetal groups, mainly the angiosperms, still do not appear in textbooks, which generally present outdated information and might hamper its learning. By contextualizing botany in real life and placing students as the core agent of their own knowledge-buildup, with the application of PBL (Problem/Project-based Learning) approaches, we have realized a significantly higher level of learning of botanical subjects. Various and diversified activities, such as projects, group work, field trip inventories, on-line material composing etc., have been employed for the last three years at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Sao Paulo, campus Sao Roque (Sao Paulo State, Brazil). The campus botanical collections, principally the IFSR Herbarium (and fungi, wood and seed/fruit collections as complimentary materials) and the arboretum, are important resources to aid students in their PBL tasks. Research work and didactic/educational application activities have shown that students get interested in studying, researching, and producing materials with plant groups and their morphological features. Random tests containing curricular botanical subjects have been applied and results have been very satisfactory, with over 80% of average approval rates. Students have proposed the implementation of other facilities to be built at the campus, such as a butterfly nursing house and a medicinal plants garden. Further investigation of how PBL activities might improve contents of botany is necessary. Spatial and activity amplification of the campus facilities would enhance better use of its functions.
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