I have been involved with pedagogical research in connection with the NSF-funded Open Science Network in Ethnobiology ( to learn and implement effective ways of teaching plant biology and ethnobotany. Listed below are some of the associated scholarly output I have been involved with.


Brosi, S., R. Huish, 2014. “Aligning plant identification curricula to disciplinary standards through the framework of student-centered learning.” in ed. book by Cassandra Quave, Innovative Strategies for Teaching in the Plant Sciences. Springer Publishing.

Abstract: Many students within plant identification courses are disengaged owing to the heavy emphasis on rote memorization. We propose a shift of learning objectives in plant identification curricula from content knowledge to emphasize broader scientific competencies and applications, within the framework of interactive student-centered learning. Outlined in this chapter are sample activities and learning objectives aligned with disciplinary standards and methods to promote student interest and success. We present examples of student-centered activities such as student-led field presentation of plants, applying the process of science, and service-learning projects. We also present some platforms for introduction and review including interactive problem-solving and games, interdisciplinary and sensory connections, and online tools. These approaches can increase student responsibility, improve accessibility to information, facilitate long-term memorization, and diversify modes of instruction and assessment.

Vougioukalou, S. K. Barfield, R. Huish, L. Shiels, S. Brosi, P. Harrison, 2014. “The contribution of ethnobiology to teaching plant sciences: student and faculty perspectives.” in ed. book by Cassandra Quave, Innovative Strategies for Teaching in the Plant Sciences. Springer Publishing.

Abstract: While the number of universities offering degrees in botany has been decreasing, the incorporation of ethnobiology in plant science curricula is becoming increasingly common. We assessed the ability of ethnobiology courses to contribute to biology education and the trends in ethnobiology education such as teaching tools, use of online resources, and learning technologies through an online survey that was disseminated to faculty and students. A total of 50 faculty members and 135 students involved in ethnobiology education completed the survey between February and June 2012. A subset of the findings is discussed here. Both students and faculty felt that ethnobiology courses contributed to core competencies in biology (as defined by American Association for the Advancement of Science 2011), particularly in communicating and collaborating with people in other disciplines and understanding the relationship between science and society. Online resources such as virtual learning platforms, videos, and biodiversity databases were commonly used. Students and faculty recognized a strength of ethnobiological curricula to be the usefulness of its applications to interdisciplinary working; however, they expressed concerns over lack of recognition of the discipline. Case studies of two higher education institutions and one botanical research institute in the USA highlighted the contribution of ethnobotany to non-science majors, ethnic minority STEM student groups, and children and young adults who access informal education. We conclude that survey results and case studies show diverse ways that ethnobiology can enrich plant science curricula and potentially contribute to the revitalization of student interest and comprehension in plant sciences.


Huish, R. “Developing curriculum for improving ethnobiology education and field research through collaborative resource pooling”, in workshop “Teaching strategies to promote active learning in ethnobotany”,  Joint conference of the Society for Economic Botany, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and the Botanical Society of America, July 2011, St. Louis, MO (invited presentation).

Vougioukalou, S., R. Huish, L. Shiels. “An evaluation of educational trends in ethnobiology: teacher and student perspectives on pedagogy and accreditation”, Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic Botany, June 2012, Frostburg, MD. (team presentation)

Brosi, S., R. Huish. “Cherokee collaborative field school: Teaching core concepts and competencies in ethnobiology through the lens of Cherokee artisan resources”, Annual Meeting of the Society of Ethnobiology and the Society for Economic Botany, May 2014, Cherokee, NC. (team presentation)

Huish, R. S. Brosi. “Student-centered learning and ethnobotanical connections in plant identification curriculum: Engaging students in broader scientific competencies”, Annual Meeting of the Society of Ethnobiology and the Society for Economic Botany, May 2014, Cherokee, NC. (team presentation)

Gettings, M., R. Huish, S. Wahl-Fouts. April 2014. Using mobile devises and apps in the classroom. Teaching and technology workshop series. Hollins University, Roanoke, VA (team presentation)



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