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M. González Benito, F. Pérez-García

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
Students of agroforestry technical degrees usually lack basic knowledge on plant biology as they do not choose Biology as subject in their last years of high school. Plant Biology is a compulsory subject for first year students in the four degrees taught at the Escuela Universitaria de Ingeniería Técnica Agrícola of the Technical University of Madrid. The subject is taught throughout one semester (October-January) and comprises two main parts: Plant Anatomy and Plant Physiology. We have conducted a study to compare two different teaching methodologies in two groups of students (EA and IA). Both groups had similar number of registered students (22 and 27). Few students (4 and 7, respectively) had studied biology in their last year at high school.
One group (EA) learnt through lectures (22 h), classes in which theory and practice were combined (28 h), and team presentations themes that students had to prepare (18 h). The students had 7 exams of 3 themes of the subject each. If they failed they had also a final exam. There was also a final practical exam. The final grade of the subject included the marks of the theory exams, of the practical exam and of the presentations.
The other group (IA) learnt through lectures (40 h) and practicals (20 h). Through the platform Moodle, the students could revise their knowledge with autocorrecting questionnaires. They also had access through the platform to web pages created by the lecturers where they could revise one part of the subject with images of plant anatomy and morphology. There were two partial exams of the theory and a final practical exam. If the students failed the partial exams there was also a final theory exam. The final grade of the subject included the marks of the theory exams, and of the practical exam.
To check the general knowledge of the students at the end of the semester an anonymous test was carried out, to compare both groups. The test marks were very similar for both groups (5.7 and 5.4 over ten). The final grades were also compared and the percentage of students that had to take the theory final exams. In both groups 22% of the registered students never took any exam. All of the students (17) who took the exams passed in the EA group (2 of them in the final exam). Of the 19 students that in the IA group attended the two partial or the final exams, 80% passed. The use of the methodologies is discussed in relation of the results of the final grades and the anonymous test.