Fixing terminology

Mary Williams mwilliams at THUBAN.AC.HMC.EDU
Mon Apr 21 12:22:03 EST 1997

Dear colleagues,
        I have found that talking to students about disputed or unresolved
issues is a very effective educational tool. My students have usually heard
SOME portion of what I'm discussing in a high school biology course. I try
to augment the stuff they've heard before (and read in their textbook) by
emphasizing that although a lot of what they're learning was elucidated
before they were born (Pre 1979!) some details (including terminology!) are
still being resolved.
        In fact, last week we talked about the use of the term "Dark
reaction" and I ASKED  them if it is an "appropriate" term....
        However, I do believe in de-emphasizing "terminology". Introductory
biology students generally come in with "Botany aversion", as their
encounter with plant biology in high school was frequently a vocabulary
lesson with no context. All I have to do is say "parenchyma, collenchyma,
sclerenchyma" and I've lost them. However, if I talk about different types
of "support" in young, middle-aged and mature tissues, and show them a
wilting plant to demonstrate the different properties, then I can slip in
"parenchyma, collencyma, sclerenchyma" without inducing their aversion
responses....I usually mention the appropriate terminology, but not always.
In my experience, this approach builds their enthusiasm for plant biology,
and once they're "hooked" I can be more "conservative" in upper level plant
biology courses....

Back to work,
Mary Williams
Biology Department
Harvey Mudd College
Claremont, CA 91711

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