As college instructors have recognized the benefits provided by cooperative and active learning, many have shifted from their traditional teaching style, dominated by lectures, to a new style where students work together and learn from each other as well as from the instructor. One strategy commonly used to implement cooperative learning in the classroom is to require students to work in teams to complete a class project. This strategy is particularly attractive to natural resources educators because natural resource issues are generally complex and interdisciplinary providing a natural setting for teaching concepts regarding natural resources ecology and management using student team projects. Further, natural resources agencies are seeking to employ individuals who have the skills to work in interdisciplinary teams to address current problems. Thus, assigning projects to student teams in natural resources classes can serve several important purposes: it can aid student mastery of the subject matter by creating a cooperative learning environment; it can provide a hands-on, problem solving context for student learning; and it can provide students with the necessary skills and experience to work effectively in teams as professionals. Although using student team projects has many potential benefits, the effectiveness of this approach as a teaching tool can vary greatly. We reflect on our experiences with using the team approach in three different courses: Fishery Management, designed for junior and senior level students; Natural Resources Decisions, a capstone course designed for seniors in the School of Forest Resources; and Watershed Management Planning, a graduate level course. As a result of our collective experiences in these three courses, we propose that investing a relatively small amount of class time to introduce students to the concept of a team and how teams work can increase the effectiveness of teaching by using student team projects.
Ferreri, C. Paolo; Glotfelty, Caren E.; and Finley, James C.
"Student team projects and natural resources education: Are we achieving educational objectives?,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 7, Article 12.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol7/iss1/12