Parrots, People and Pedagogies: A Look at Teaching and Education

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ALEX the African Grey Parrot and Dr Irene Pepperberg.

Image: The ALEX Foundation.

Like anyone who has taught science courses, and probably like anyone who has ever taught anything to a classroom in the history of mankind, I’ve wondered how to motivate my students to really care about the material they are learning, beyond simply “studying for the test.” For example, I have used a group method of study where groups of 4 students are each assigned a specific task: to become an expert in a particular area and to share their knowledge with the other groups. This method is only partially successful since it is dependent upon good classroom rapport and careful management by the professor, otherwise, each group of “experts” can selectively withhold or misrepresent information that is important for developing a better understanding of the topic at hand.

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About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. She writes the popular eponymous science blog hosted by The Guardian (UK) and is working on a popular science book about plumage colour. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots — and a slightly deaf spouse — somewhere in Germany. Grrlscientist's main blog is hosted by The Guardian, Grrlscientist. GrrlScientist's main blog can always be accessed through any one of these five domain names: GrrlScientist.net, GrrlScientist.org, GrrlScientist.info, GrrlScientist.com, and GrrlScientist.us. GrrlScientist writes a second blog, Maniraptora, at Nature Network. (Maniraptora is in a state of unfixable technical disrepair, which explains the existence of this blog!) Online interviews with GrrlScientist: Kolibri Expeditions, ScienceOnline09, Nature Blog Network and ScienceBlogs. More biographical information about GrrlScientist.
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