was team teaching; now FACTS?

Kathleen Brunkard brunkard at esu.edu
Thu Jul 15 11:38:46 EST 1999

Scott,  I used Canny's model in a discussion of xylem transport in my
Plant Physiology course last fall, after first introducing a more
traditional view.  My students were absolutely enthused, and ending up
debating among themselves whether or not Canny could be right.  It was
interesting to note the difference between those who had reasons they
could state clearly for why they disagreed with the Canny model, and those
who disagreed only because they had heard the other explanation first and
were no longer willing to accept a new explanation.

                             Kathleen Brunkard, Ph.D.
                         Biological Sciences Department
                           East Stroudsburg University
                           East Stroudsburg, PA   18301

                             phone:  570-422-3705
                           e-mail: brunkard at esu.edu
                             fax:    570-422-3724

On 14 Jul 1999 SMeissne at aol.com wrote:

> While I agree that students can be burried in information, I think that there 
> is value in training students to learn how to assimilate a large body of 
> information, and then apply that information in evaluating important issues.  
> It is the business of professors to decide which issues students should have 
> to be able to intelligently evaluate.  And what types of evaluation of 
> information they should be able to carry out.  
> For instance:  Should biology majors have to use statistical tests to 
> evaluate the data they collect in laboratory exercises?  Should they have to 
> learn how to search out previously published information in the published 
> literature?  Should they have to be able to read at a level that allows them 
> to understand the published literature?  
> But many lectures do not cover evaluation of information.  Many lectures (and 
> I know that there are some folks in this group who would jump on me if I do 
> not acknowledge that they don't fall into this trap...) are full of factoids, 
> and weak on analysis.  
> One of the best courses I took as an undergraduate was a course in which the 
> professor taught us about photosynthesis from the primary literature.  Each 
> lecture would cover several articles.  We could read them or not as we 
> choose, but the professor made the conflicts between early models of 
> photosynthesis so stark, and described so clearly how new information from a 
> paper caused a reevaluation of how photosynthesis was conceived, that I went 
> and looked up several of the papers each week.  
> Instruction of undergraduates needs more than content, it needs context.  It 
> needs conflict!  We need to show students, by bring out issues from current 
> or past literature that there are conflicting views of many biological 
> issues.  Give the students that, show them that we need people to get to the 
> heart of a issue, and then ask them to learn the content.  But cover the 
> content, so that they learn the dicipline necessary to go into any area they 
> wish.
> What I would like to see, instead of a debate over content, is a discussion 
> off papers people use to describe current or past scientific conflicts.  For 
> instance, currently Canny has put forward an interesting model of how xylem 
> functions, which is in conflict with some aspects of the cohesion tension 
> theory.  The fact that scientists are still arguing over how xylem sap flows 
> and how cavitation is avoided should be pointed out to students so that they 
> can realize that what they are learning are not facts, but hypotheses.  And 
> the first thing necessary to evaluate the competition's hypothesis is to 
> understand it fully.  That is why the details matter and have to be examined. 
> Scott T. Meissner
> smeissne at aol.com
> Aure Entuluva!
> In a message dated 99-07-14 13:03:56 EDT, you write:
> << 
>  In a message dated 07/14/1999 10:02:44 AM, drobinson at bellarmine.edu writes:
>  >(yes, even
>  >memorizing!) vocabulary is a critical part of that process.
>  Dave Robinson you blaspheme!  <big, wide grin here>
>  Perhaps we should put things in perspective. We need *whole* students, 
>  teachers, and scientists. What would we think of a politician who didn't 
> know 
>  which came first, the French Revolution or the Spanish-American War? What 
>  would we think of a biologist who didn't know what glycolysis or a polar 
> bond 
>  was? Could such a one use, as an excuse, that their specialty was mammalian 
>  behavior?
>  Can we have surgeons who know how to make an incision in the body wall but 
>  know neither where the gall bladder lies nor what its function is? It's like 
>  the chicken and the egg. Neither comes first, they come together. You can't 
>  have one without the other.
>  We are certainly doing disservice to any potential biological graduate 
>  student if, in the context of teaching biology, we don't at least delineate 
>  some minimal set of important content, such as the chemiosmotic hypothesis, 
>  Darwin's theory of natural selection, Mendel's law of segregation, the 
>  Watson/Crick theory of DNA function, and so on. When they discover the need 
>  to know these things on their own it will be much too late to avoid the 
>  embarrassment of ignorance.
>  I don't mean to negate the long neglected need for actively teaching the 
>  process of science. But should we go as far as Bill Purves in his assertion 
>  that there is no specific fact which must be learned in undergraduate 
>  biology? Perhaps what he means if that there is no one fact so important 
> that 
>  it could not, in the interest of better learning, be omitted (but certainly 
>  not along with every other such fact).
>  And while we're at it, what about descriptive science? Don't students need 
> to 
>  understand that the quest for pattern, classification, organization, and law 
>  are valid research objectives? Science is not strictly experimental. When 
> and 
>  how do we incorporate this vital aspect of biology into the "process" of 
>  education?
>  Dave Williams
>   >>

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