Facts and process are BOTH important

Grant R. Cramer cramer at UNR.EDU
Tue Jul 13 14:08:57 EST 1999

You are right. I did not mean to imply that facts were not important. As you
say, you can't make critical evaluations without them. However, I do not
think that strict memorization of small details is necessary, that is where
books (and databases) become useful. Almost all of us (except those lucky
enough to have photographic memory) will forget the details eventually. What
I hope my students can retain are the most important facts (which is where
we as teachers come into play). There is quite a bit of evidence that active
learning processes allow us to remember much better than passive learning
processes, which is the point I think Elizabeth Larkin was trying to make.
My courses do require the students to learn a lot of facts, but ideally I
try to bring this about through an active learning experience that forces
them to use critical thinking skills.
Grant R. Cramer
Associate Professor
Mail Stop 200
Department of Biochemistry
University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557
phone: (775) 784-4204
fax: (775) 784-1650
email: cramer at med.unr.edu
web page: http://BIOCHEM.MED.UNR.EDU/faculty/grant_c/

>From: kklemow at wilkes1.wilkes.edu (Ken Klemow)
>To: plant-ed at net.bio.net
>Subject: Facts and process are BOTH important
>Date: Tue, Jul 13, 1999, 10:03 AM

> Grant R. Cramer wrote:
>>I agree with your comments. I would add one other factor that I feel is MOST
>>important to teach my students and that is for them "to be able to
>>critically evaluate information" or "to think for themselves". Surprisingly
>>few are capable of doing this by the time they reach my class after 3 years
>>of University education. In many cases, student entering my class have never
>>read a scientific paper.
> Colleagues,
> Science consists of two parts: (1) the process by which new information is
> collected, reported, and archived, and (2) the body of information that
> results from Part (1).  I think that if we don't teach BOTH to our
> students, we are doing them, and society, a disservice.
> Thus, I feel strongly that all of our courses must have a strong content
> component - unless the course is specifically a "methods" or seminar
> course.  However, courses should NOT be ALL content, but should cover the
> manner in which we have come to know what we know, perhaps some discussion
> of historical concepts that we have discarded along the way, and **most
> importantly** areas that are in need of future investigation.  As Grant
> Cramer noted, critical thinking should be a central skill that we teach.
> However, we are deluding ourselves if we go on pretending that anybody can
> be a useful consumer of new information without having a solid background
> in a given field.  We have all seen situations in which an unknowledgeable
> person either (A) fails to criticize something that deserves criticism, or
> (b) criticizes something that's actually praiseworthy.
> Ken K.
> Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D.
> Professor of Biology & GeoEnvironmental Science
> Biology Program
> Wilkes University
> Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766
> e-mail: kklemow at wilkes1.wilkes.edu
> webpage: http://wilkes1.wilkes.edu:80/~kklemow
> phone: 570-408-4758
> fax: 570-408-7862

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