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life cycles

sjohnson at mtsu.edu sjohnson at mtsu.edu
Fri Mar 24 09:26:02 EST 2000

hello plant-edders.

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

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