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In this article, we put forward a new approach to the teaching of scientific reasoning in biology with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We argue that a framework based on the idea of six styles of scientific reasoning provides the best guide for biology teachers to the nature of scientific reasoning in biology and how it might be taught. The current framework of the crosscutting concepts fails to provide a narrative for what makes biology distinctive and how biological scientists reason. By contrast, a framework of styles of scientific reasoning does offer a coherent argument for the biology curriculum in grades K–12, a justification for each performance expectation, and a vision of how each standard might support the development of scientific reasoning in biology. Examples and implications for curriculum designers and educators are discussed.
Evolutionary evidence is important scientific background for appreciating the theory of evolution. We describe a STEAM-based lesson plan that uses paleontological drawings and a modern evolutionary database to explore and understand fossil, morphological, and molecular evidence. Together, with a focus on arthropods and the Cambrian explosion, students experience a heuristic process common in scientific reasoning, guiding them toward practices that synthesize knowledge and invite questioning in the life sciences.
Increasing public concern over the use of animal dissection in education is driving development and testing of alternatives to animal use. Clay modeling has proven successful in achieving comparable or superior learning at postsecondary levels, but it has not yet been tested at secondary levels. This study tested the effectiveness and appeal of clay models vs. cat cadaver dissection in teaching human anatomy to high school students. Student performance on a content knowledge assessment increased following both the model and dissection laboratories. The use of clay models produced better short-term learning outcomes in human anatomy for high school students than the use of cat dissection techniques, although this improvement was not retained in students' final examination scores. Students found the clay models both useful and enjoyable. Overall, the majority of students chose dissection as the preferred technique; however, after the laboratory exercises, the proportion of students who chose dissection decreased, for both the clay modeling and cat dissection laboratory sections. In the clay modeling group, the proportion of students expressing preference for clay modeling was slightly higher than the proportion preferring cat dissection.
Biodiversity and sustainability are key words of modern nature-of-science teaching. While most studies use rather abstract examples for biodiversity loss, we focused on habitats that students are familiar with. Our module was developed to deepen the understanding of domestic botanical ecosystems by having students work with and on designated pasture areas. The economic implications of sustainability were addressed by contrasting intensive and extensive agriculture, as well as by touching upon topics such as organic labels and modern agriculture. By focusing on domestic ecosystems within everyday contexts, combined with digital teaching methods, we successfully increased individual knowledge levels when taking before-and-after participation scores into account. Based on these results, we conclude that our approach to using different forms of pasture on the school grounds is a promising way to improve students' understanding of the economic and ecological implications of sustainability.
Model-based inquiry, inquiry-based learning, and phenomenon are all popular terms in K–12 science education right now. Science education in our public education system is rapidly changing due to the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards ask teachers to move away from direct instruction to having students develop their understanding of the natural world through guided-learning activities. Under NGSS, students are expected to develop this understanding through one of the main scientific practices, model building, which requires a complex, real-world phenomenon to drive the learning experience. Phenomena work best in the classroom when they apply to students' lives and pique their interest. Finding such phenomena can be hard – especially finding ones that have not already been thoroughly explained on the internet. A great way to find a complex, real-world phenomenon that will interest students is to partner with a local research lab to bring part of their research project into the classroom. This article lays out a process for bringing a local research project into the classroom and designing NGSS-aligned curricula around this project to create a more authentic learning experience for high school students.
An in-depth curricular unit exploring the effects of human land use on local water resources was created as part of a Teacher Professional Learning Program at the University of Connecticut's Natural Resources Conservation Academy. This unit was designed to connect high school students to water resources in their community, both in the field and through the use of interactive mapping technology. These methods engage students in science and technology using multiple disciplines and can help them better understand how their local water resource is affected by the surrounding landscape. In this unit, students explore the dynamics of local water resources and the anthropogenic issues that affect them through field and open-access online inquiry-based activities. The varied lessons within this unit were purposefully created to align with the Next Generation Science Standards and to fit within either an earth science or a biology course. They use existing online geospatial tools and can be tailored to any geographic area of interest.
We present a novel adaptation of a typical science laboratory protocol, which we have termed multi-view protocols (MVPs). The purpose of MVPs is to answer and link three common questions asked by students when first learning a laboratory technique: (1) What am I supposed to do? (2) Where and how am I supposed to do it? (3) What exactly am I doing, anyway? The intent of MVPs is to facilitate parallel comprehension of both the physical “movements” of a technique and the theoretical principles behind each step of a protocol. With MVPs, we achieve this through three parallel columns that include a textual description of the protocol, photographs of the protocol being performed in the laboratory space, and an illustrative column that visually depicts the molecular details of the corresponding steps. Variations of MVPs may include having students create one or more of the parallel columns themselves. In the age of near ubiquitous high-resolution camera phones, MVPs are a practical and efficient way to simultaneously teach laboratory method and theory, adaptable to nearly any laboratory protocol.
There are benefits to both laboratory exercises and scientific modeling, and connecting the two may allow for deeper understanding and interest. Laboratory exercises provide students with opportunities to experience phenomena, but without scientific modeling, students may still lack understanding of the mechanisms at play. This article describes an example of how a traditional laboratory exercise on planarian regeneration is enhanced with a modeling activity on cell signaling.
The flipped classroom model is increasingly popular in higher education, due to a number of potential advantages. Students gain the ability to customize their learning by interacting with classroom concepts on their own schedule. By moving some content out of the classroom, instructors gain the ability to free up time for more active-learning exercises and to concentrate on higher-order levels of learning. This article describes a comprehensive curriculum for flipping an allied health microbiology course, including tips for video lecture content and for active-learning modules that can be used in the classroom.
Writing skills remain in high demand even as trends like class-size increases discourage faculty from assigning students opportunities to practice the craft. At the same time, students live in a world in which scientifically suspect claims spread more rapidly than their debunking. We crafted a scaffolded, low-stakes assignment sequence addressing both needs, one that requires relatively little grading. Approaches like this one may prove useful in college and AP classes.