this semester i really did a number with plant life cycles. students
had to learn names of the alternate generations, and such. but
there was no general memorization of the life cycles themselves.
just a demand that they be able to track them - determine whether
water was necessary for repro, whether homosporous or
heterosporous, which structures were haploid vs diploid, etc.
throughout the lectures on diversity of life i asked these same
questions and pulled answers out of them. gave them botany
coloring book life cycles and had them discuss in groups the same
questions then color them for homework. through all of this i
constantly reminded them that scientists, and generally
professional people in today's world, have to be able to use their
basic understanding of a subject to pull info out of figures. i was
really pleased with their progress as they answered questions in
class and got more & more familiar with the form of the life cycles.
finally in the exam following that unit, i gave a completely unknown
life cycle and asked the same questions. i was so excited. i felt
like that part of the exam would empower the students by letting
them see that they could extract info & draw conclusions about it
(important science skill!). i was a little disappointed by the results.
but really, many of the students did rather well. it was challenging
for them. i think if they had tracked the cycles at home during their
study time (ha ha?) they would have done better. i'm encouraged
because i feel like it was a 'thinking' challenge which helped me
develop. but, at the same time, i'm disturbed because i feel like i
can't expect the majority of my students to study, even defined
tasks, outside of class.
this was a majors class, not non-majors. i feel like the whole thing
would have bored non-majors out of their minds. i, too, am
heartened by gini berg's non-majors response. i think we can
provoke scientific thinking without a lab - but that's very hard. i
think we can give labs that provoke no thinking at all - and that's,
perhaps, very usual.
Sandra L. Johnson, Ph.D.
Plant Physiological Ecologist
Middle Tennessee State University
Biology Department PO Box 60
Murfreesboro, TN 31732
Phone: (615) 898-2021
FAX: (615) 898-5093