In 2010, I asked students reading LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment to conduct non-interference observations of wildlife in Singapore. This was first carried out with LSM1303 Animal Behaviour and I ported the model over.
Students conduct their research independently but have two scheduled consultation sessions with TAs and the lecturer and are welcome to offline and face to face consultation.
After an eye-opening field trip to Pulau Ubin early in the semester, students presented research proposals through a three-minute elevator pitch. That usually results in lots of adjustments but by a fortnight later, field recces would have been conducted and they are in much better shape for data collection.
10 hours of observation are required, which could potentially result in 20 – 50 hours worth of observation in the field depending on project type and design. Not often, but possible.
Results are formally presented at parallel sessions of symposia chaired by their TAs and includes a Q&A session by their peers (we provide guidelines). Students ask questions actively and are typically very politely phrased. They do get marks for asking questions!
Having students figure things out themselves with some help is preferred above directed field trips because this removes them from a prescribed culture with little room to think – especially with typical class sizes of 150-200. And importantly, leeway is given for mistakes during evaluation so there is space to learn.
These students are just beginning their exploration of wildlife in Singapore so it is heartening to listen to their scrutinising observations during the symposia.
After the symposium yesterday, I asked some students which they preferred – and the room unanimously indicated it was independent exploration.
The programme and abstracts are hosted at blog.nus.edu.sg/lsm2251/.