Using Biological Scientific Principles to Analyze and Explain Real-World Phenomenon
The design pattern generates assessment tasks that require students to identify relevant biological principles at play in current events related to health and the environment, and then to analyze and critique the reported finding or phenomena using a step-by-step application of the relevant biological principles.
Public understanding of current events involving scientific findings and phenomena is enhanced when citizens can link those events to core biological principles. Such a skill permits citizens to think critically about scientific discovery that is unfolding during their lives.
Ability to identify, among choices, the appropriate biological principle(s) relevant to specific news reports about health and environmental phenomena. (schematic knowledge)
Ability to make explicit the tacit biological principles and reasoning that are relevant to specific news reports about health and environmental phenomena. (schematic knowledge)
Ability to place news reports about biological phenomena into a historical context of scientific discovery about essential biological principles. In other words, students can demonstrate why certain discoveries are of high interest to the scientific community. (schematic knowledge)
Ability to apply the new information in the news report to situations involving one's personal health, matters of public health, or environmental policy. (strategic knowledge)
Knowledge that (declarative knowledge):
Familiarity with the underlying declarative knowledge of cellular self-replication processes (i.e., a gene and a protein are not the same)
Familiarity with the underlying declarative knowledge of cellular metabolic pathways for living organisms (photosynthesis) (glycolysis prepares glucose for conversion to usable energy via anaerobic or aerobic chemical processes; anaerobic is typically less efficient than aerobic)
Familiarity with underlying declarative knowledge that genetic mutation occurs in replicating gene sequences and some of those mutations make a species more adaptable to prevailing environmental conditions.
Familiarity with underlying declarative knowledge of osmosis and the basis of exchange through the cell membrane
Familiarity with the declarative knowledge that antibiotics do not work alone but rather, must work in partnership with the hosts immune system
Familiarity with underlying declarative knowledge of receptors on cell surfaces to permit delivery of key messages for cellular function and communication. These messages trigger reactions in the cell.
Familiarity with the hierarchical organization of life.
Basic skills of reading and writing.
Ability to interpret and analyze tabular and graphical data?
Basic computational and arithmetic skills.
Understanding the steps of the scientific method.
(How would we recognize the focal KSAs when we see them?)
Quality of student identifying the correct biological principle(s) in play in a news report.
Quality of providing sufficient detail and accurate sequence to explain how the biological principle(s) function in the news report.
Quality of linking a finding in the news report to biological dogma and principles to characterize how the finding advances prior scientific knowledge. (e.g., so what?)
Quality of generating a set of appropriate new personal or public policy practices that apply the findings in the news report, or, by contrast, being able to explain why the news report does not necessarily lead to any changes in existing personal or public policy practice.
Quality of recognizing and correcting a common misconception
Multiple choice question (e.g., linking the news finding to appropriate biological principles)
Short answer response
Written explanation, with diagrams as needed, to illustrate steps in a biological process
Argument advocating for or against a specific public health or environmental policy recommendation, citing relevant theory from biological principles and evidence from news report
In class, I might have the students develop something like a public health pamphlet, however, this wouldn’t be appropriate for the time constraints of the assessment at hand
3 -- Student identifies correct biological principle(s), provides elaborated step-by-step description of underlying biological process, and describes the specific scientific significance (or lack thereof) of the reported finding
2 -- Student identifies correct biological principle(s), provides a generally correct sequential description of the underlying biological process, and provides a generally correct characterization of the scientific significance (or lack thereof) of the reported finding.
1 -- Student correctly identifies biological principle(s), but may not provide a generally sequential description of the underlying biological process, and does not provide a generally correct characterization of the scientific significance (or lack thereof) of the reported finding.
0 -- Student fails to identify the correct biological principle.
Task must include a news report of either a health or environmental phenomenon OR a scientific finding relevant to health or the environment (additional layer of difficulty: maybe item isn't so obviously tied to health? E.g. discovery microbes, or discovery of DNA. Or maybe this would be too difficult)
Task must require students to apply biological principle(s) and either: (1) characterize the relative significance of the news for biological science, or (2) describe the changes in personal or public policy practice that logically flow from the news or (3) do both.
Familiarity of the topic of the news report.
Number of relevant biological principles
Level of technical detail required to explain the relevance of the news
Genre of information presentation (e.g., a mass media report or a popular scientific journal report or an email from a relative/friend or a claim published on a commercial product)