Identification keys in education

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Teachers tested KeyToNature identification tools
Pupils used identification keys for learning about plants characteristic of meadows.
Students used identification keys for learning about features of higher plants families.


For whom and how are we developing identification tools and other learning resources?

KeyToNature is developing targeted products and solutions based on existing identification tools. A main aim of the project is to develop and adapt identification tools according to the needs of the target groups envisaged by the project (further information on D2.1 Multidimensional need analysis and market report ).

The development is being realised by discovering the requirements of the different target groups of the project. How does it work? In the first phase of the project, a set of existing identification tools was presented to potential users (teachers). After each presentation, teachers were asked to report on their impressions of the tools - strengths and weaknesses - and to suggest possible pedagogical scenarios for their use. In accordance with teachers' responses, first requirements for the further development of the tools have been defined. In the current phase of the project, the discovery process continuous in a more detailed way. The tools - with some improvements already implemented according to the first results of the evaluation process - are being tested under real teaching circumstances, and teachers give detailed feedback on the tools and their use at school, university or in other pedagogical organisations such as botanical gardens and museums. The feedback is again used for the reengineering of the identification tools. This process of testing, feedback and reengineering will continue during the life time of the project.

In addition, the KeyToNature tools will be developed according to general pedagogical aims, requirements and usability aspects that match with the demands of the target groups. Again, these requirements are being investigated. In this case, the process is about discovering what the tool is and learning what the requirements are by exploration, i.e. by using and playing with the tools and exploring their strengths and weaknesses and looking for possible improvements and new developments.

It is essential to point out that the KeyToNature tools are being developed to meet the needs of three main target groups that have to be analysed separately.


Which pedagogical approach does KeyToNature support?

The K2N products and keys are not based on any inherent pedagogical model. In the first instance they represent information, consultation and identification tools that can be integrated in every possible teaching activity. But if we look closer at the concepts of identification we quickly come to the conclusion that KeyToNature products can best support open and active learning activities. The concept of *active learning* encompasses ideas about knowledge acquisition (e.g. *constructivism*) and the importance of the social dimension (e.g. *collaborative learning*). In addition, problem-based learning approaches with quite strong links to active learning can be extremely well adopted for teaching biodiversity aided by identification keys.

Why is the identification of organisms a unique experience to promote active, problem-based learning, and in some cases collaborative learning?

Identification is a dynamic, explorative activity. Students are encouraged to discover principles for themselves and so become less passive as learners. Identification of organisms helps to provide the learning environments that support open, active and, in many cases, collaborative learning approaches. Groups of students can plan a particular identification approach, work together on the identification of certain individual specimens, discuss and revise assumptions and results, and present their results to others.


Why is the identification of organisms in the field so important from a pedagogical point of view?

The field identification of organisms presents a unique set of visual learning, visual thinking and visual communication requirements. Being able to utilise their knowledge of images for thinking and communicating is extremely important for school children. Identification allows students to practice necessary visual skills and explore visual approaches to problem solving within the identification of organisms knowledge domain. Visual learning can be defined as *the acquisition and construction of knowledge as a result of interaction with visual phenomena*.


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Primary schools
How to use identification tools in primary school.
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Secondary schools
How to use identification tools in secondary school.
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Universities
How to use identification tools in university.
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Examples of pedagogical scenarios
Some ideas for using identification tools at all three education levels.