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How One Professor Uses Entomology Today as a Teaching Tool

TAMU ENTO322 class

Students in “ENTO322: Insects in Human Society” at Texas A&M University learn about the scientific method by analyzing insect research and its real-world applications—a pursuit in which a certain blog about entomology plays a role. (Photo credit: Rob Williams)

On Monday, fall semester classes begin at Texas A&M University. In at least one of those classes, students will find themselves exploring the world of insect science right here at Entomology Today.

“We use the Entomology Today posts to introduce our students to the diversity of insects and insect research topics, as well as their connection to human society,” says Craig Coates, Ph.D., Instructional Associate Professor at Texas A&M. Among other courses, Coates teaches “ENTO 322: Insects in Human Society.”

The primary purpose of Entomology Today is to showcase research and news in the world of entomology—in a format that strives to be relevant to entomologists while accessible to a general-interest audience. Its use in an educational setting is, in the eyes of this blog’s editors, a fitting extension of that goal.

Part of the ENTO 322 coursework at Texas A&M entails a weekly assignment to read an Entomology Today post and identify elements of the scientific method. “Each student is randomly assigned one of the articles, and they are asked to provide statements identifying the hypothesis, methods, results, future work, and impact on human society,” says Coates. “The writing style and level of detail in the blogs are ideal for accessibility and understanding for non-life-science majors and majors alike, who typically struggle with answering the same questions from a primary scientific paper. However, not all of the details needed to answer the prompts are provided in each article—which is a good thing—so they often need to use the links to look at the primary article, supporting links, interviews, and so forth, or they will do so just out of curiosity.”

The class uses a peer-review process for grading the assignments, which means each student reads three to five posts per week (his or her own plus posts that classmates have written about) for five weeks, Coates says. The assignments run for the first five weeks of the 15-week course. The usage of Entomology Today is such that, during those five weeks, the Texas A&M online Blackboard portal ranks among the top few referrers of web traffic to the blog.

“This has been a superb resource for our class,” says Coates. “We have a reflective journal entry at the end of the course where several of the students describe being told by their roommates to stop talking about insects so much!”

So, from the staff here at Entomology Today, a shout out to the students in ENTO 322 in College Station. We hope reading our humble little blog inspires a lifelong appreciation of insects—or even a future in entomological science. Gig ‘Em Aggies, and thanks for reading!

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