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Guiding students to generate testable scientific questions is essential in the inquiry classroom, but it is not easy. The purpose of the BDC (“Big Idea, Divergent Thinking, and Convergent Thinking”) instructional model is to to scaffold students' inquiry learning. We illustrate the use of this model with an example lesson, designed to help 5th-grade students understand the concept of plant growth. The BDC model functions as an exploration of, and a connection with, related information among students' scientific knowledge, skills, and practice, so that students can further generate research ideas. Students are able to more easily formulate testable questions and are also highly motivated throughout the course of their inquiry practice. This instructional model provides teachers with a practical and meaningful tool, one that increases students’ capabilities to formulate researchable questions and sustains their motivation to engage in activities of scientific and creative inquiry.
This study investigates the relationship among (1) college major, (2) knowledge used in reasoning about common health beliefs, and (3) judgment about the accuracy of those beliefs. Seventy-four college students, advanced biology and non—science majors, indicated their agreement or disagreement with commonly believed, but often inaccurate, statements about health and explained their reasoning. The results indicated that while the direct impact of college-level biology coursework on judgment accuracy was minimal, biology major was associated with increased reliance on advanced biological reasoning, which mediated judgment accuracy. However, the overall association of advanced biological reasoning with judgment accuracy was small. The discussion calls for strengthening the science—daily life connection in biology education for majors and nonmajors.
We designed a human biology course that interests nonmajors while improving science literacy through student engagement, using a constructivist-inspired, topic-centered approach. This way of learning highlights common diseases that provide a basis to incorporate specific biological concepts. The topic-centered approach triggers interest and increases positive perceptions of learning science, and students find applicability in what they learn. In alignment with the Vision and Change report of AAAS, this course addresses the need to focus on connecting biology principles with real-world concerns, while incorporating students' experiences into the learning process.
I describe and evaluate a fun and simple role-playing exercise that allows students to actively work through the process of translation. This exercise can easily be completed during a 50-minute class period, with time to review the steps and contemplate complications such as the effects of various types of mutations.
Optimal foraging theory attempts to explain the foraging patterns observed in animals, including their choice of particular food items and foraging locations. We describe three experiments designed to test hypotheses about food choice and foraging habitat preference using bird feeders. These experiments can be used alone or in combination and can also provide a foundation for students to develop extensions incorporating the basic methodology. We see these experiments as most applicable in secondary and postsecondary education, but they could be adapted for a variety of educational environments and for students with a variety of backgrounds.
Interpreting cladograms is a key skill for biological literacy. In this lesson, students interpret cladograms based on familial relationships and language relationships to build their understanding of tree thinking and to construct a definition of “common ancestor.” These skills can then be applied to a true biological cladogram.
Undergraduate biology labs often explore the techniques of data collection but neglect the statistical framework necessary to express findings. Students can be confused about how to use their statistical knowledge to address specific biological questions. Growth in the area of observational ecology requires that students gain experience in sampling design and the scope of inference relevant to observational studies. I developed a laboratory-based guided inquiry that illustrates these concepts by comparing ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) trees in northeastern Washington State. This approach presents a hands-on experience whereby students apply the statistics they learn in the classroom to a field-based investigation, giving students an appreciation of the design and interpretation of observational studies in ecology.
Instructors often present Mendelian genetics and molecular biology separately. As a result, students often fail to connect the two topics in a tangible manner. We have adopted a simple experiment to help link these two important topics in a basic biology course, using red and white onions bought from a local grocery store. A lack of red coloration in white onions is a result of one or more mutations in the color production pathway. This mutation can be seen by the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) followed by gel electrophoresis. An absence of an amplified PCR product for one of the genes necessary for color production is associated with a lack of color production — an obvious trait in white onion. The students are able to “see” the difference at the DNA level between the red and white onion.