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Front. Environ. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00111

Active Learning Approaches to Teaching Soil Science at the College Level

  • 1University of Rhode Island, United States

Traditional passive approaches to teaching, such as lectures, are not particularly effective at promoting student learning, or at developing the qualities that employers seek in graduates from soil science programs, such as problem-solving and critical thinking skills. In contrast, active learning approaches have been shown to promote these very qualities in students. Here I discuss my use of active learning approaches to teach soil science at the introductory and advanced levels, with particular focus on problem-based learning, and combined just-in-time teaching and peer instruction. A brief description of the each pedagogical approach is followed by evidence of its impact on student learning in general and, when available, its use in soil science courses. I describe and discuss my experiences using these approaches teaching introductory soil science (face-to-face and online), soil chemistry and soil microbiology courses, and provide examples of some of the problems I use. I have found the benefits to student learning in terms of student engagement, ownership of learning, and development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills easily outweigh are clear relative to traditional, passive approaches to teaching.

Keywords: Active Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Just-in-time teaching, peer instruction, Soil science education

Received: 05 Mar 2019; Accepted: 26 Jun 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Amador. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Jose A. Amador, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, United States,