Using the Improvisational “Yes, and…” Approach as a Review Technique in the Student-Centered Biology Classroom †
In the biological sciences, students frequently equate understanding to compiling and memorizing information as a series of isolated facts. For this reason, they struggle to connect major concepts across course curriculums. In other disciplines, improvisation techniques have been introduced as a way to engage with millenials, who learn best through inductive and experiential learning. Here we present an improvisational classroom activity called “Yes, and…” as a review technique that can be used throughout the semester and in multiple contexts to help students assimilate and integrate information. Students in small groups first review a major topic provided by the instructor (for example, DNA structure or DNA properties). Then, one student in the group contributes one sentence that starts a narrative about the topic being reviewed as learned in class. Additional members of the group then take turns, one at a time, to add additional layers of details to the narrative. The group dynamic continues until all of the students in the group have contributed at least one sentence to the narrative. Students are encouraged to listen carefully to their classmates’ contributions so that inaccurate ideas can be identified and tweaked through conversation at the end of one round of the exercise. The instructor moves between groups to continue to foster the learning experience. We find that the “Yes, and…” approach promotes deep student engagement with course material, collaboration among students of different backgrounds, and fosters development of oral communication skills.
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