Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Teaching, Learning & "Covering" Science

In response to an very interesting discussion on teaching
evolution on the National Science Teachers Association
(NSTA) Biology list server, I had this to say...

A major problem with most curricula is that they are
primarily about "covering" large amounts of materials
rather than developing a robust conceptual understanding
of fundamental biological principles – there is little (that is,
not enough) time to learn and solidify the conceptual
foundations upon which modern biology is based.

This approach leaves students vulnerable, because they
retain many unacknowledged misconceptions about
science in general, and biology in particular (it is worth
looking at the video "A private universe" if you get a chance

Students often harbor very deeply held ideas about
randomness, mutation, selection, cellular continuity,
biological diversity, the relationship between genotype
and phenotype, the mechanisms and logic of reproductive
isolation, and how biological processes occur at the
molecular level, etc.

If these misconceptions are not directly addressed, they
remain to sabotage student understanding.

As a community, we need to take a more active stand to
bring back into line what content can be realistically covered,
based on the assumption that our goal is conceptual
understanding, rather than the ability of students to remember
the correct answers.

Working with some high school biology teachers last
summer, we started to devise a basic biology concept map
- if you have comments, I would l love to hear about them. 20concept_Web_PNG/index.html

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