BMCC Assistant Science Professor David Krauss is one of about 20 undergraduate science educators nationwide, to be selected this year as a BiosciEdNet (BEN) scholar, and will contribute his extensive bank of wildlife photography—along with teaching resources on how to use them as case studies—to the highly respected BEN library of digitized science resources.
“The photos span a wide variety of natural history themes,” says Krauss. “Some are simply taxonomic documentary photos (‘This is what a Red-tailed Hawk looks like’), but the interesting ones show distinct moments of natural history (ecological situations, behaviors, etc.), that can be used as teaching points in the classroom.”
His focus as a BEN scholar, he says, “is an extension of the pedagogical research I’ve been working on, using photographs as case studies in the classroom. I’ve collaborated with Professor Lauren Goodwyn [Deputy Chair of the BMCC Science Department], and Science Professor Issa Salame at CCNY [City College of New York] on this work and we have presented our methods at conferences and published it. It is gratifying to have our work validated and vetted by the scientific—as well as the educational—communities in this way.”
The value of peer review
BEN resources become part of a digitized library that is peer-reviewed and screened by the nation’s top scientific experts and groups, “ensuring that what is available for all teachers accurately reflects the current state of the biological sciences,” says Krauss.
This is significant, he says, because the resources are used “by all science teachers, including high school and middle school teachers who may not be qualified to evaluate the scientific validity of individual resources themselves, not having been trained as scientists.”
Another benefit of the BEN resources is that they are based on data from a wide range of scientific societies and coalitions, so they enable interdisciplinary searches across many different biological sciences.
For example, says Krauss, “someone like me, specializing in the ecology and anatomy of dinosaurs can find resources not only in that area, but also for the genetics, biotechnology and cellular biology covered in my classes.”
Photographs as case studies
Recently, in the Journal of College Science Teaching, Krauss co-authored with professors Issa I. Salame of CCNY, and Lauren Goodwyn of BMCC, the article, “Using Photographs as Case Studies to Promote Active Learning in Biology.”
In one of the article’s examples, students compare photos of two birds, both warblers, the Common Yellowthroat.
Looking closely, they notice signs of poor health in one bird (pale plumage, a tumor on the beak, malformed feet), and not in the other. When the instructor asks which bird would appear more desirable as a mate, to a female of the same species, “…students universally pick the second male, and in so doing, recognize the importance of sexual selection in evolution and ecology.”
Photographic case studies can also be used, the article explains, in disciplines other than biology.
“Photographs of ice on a pond or erosion of a statue are excellent entry points for discussing the importance of certain types of atomic bonds and chemical reactions,” the authors state. “Photographs of building sites or dinosaurs provide excellent examples of the principles of mechanics, leverage, and torque in a physics class.”
As a BEN scholar, Krauss will not only contribute digitized wildlife photographs, but continue to contextualize them within the pedagogies of student-centered learning—inquiry-based teaching, interactive lectures, problem-based learning, authentic assessment, integrating digital resources and assessing their impact on students, and including career information in instruction.?
Eventually, he will plan and deliver instruction that introduces students at BMCC to a digital science library, and evaluates their understanding of the resource.