For the past year or so KABT’er, Scott Sharp, has been asking me if I can help him generate a list of essential, core concepts that every biology student should learn–something a bit different than just a re-visitation of the science standards or a TOC from a text book. As we have carried on this discussion Scott usually seems to focus on trying to identify those little kernals of knowledge and understanding that open an entire realm of new exploration in biology understanding. At any rate, I’ve usually been a bit evasive on the subject; indicating that, yes I have a pretty good idea of the “essentials” in my mind but that varies each and every year that I teach and is highly subjective to who I am as a biology teacher. I suggest that he will develop his own as he continues to reflect upon his teaching.
Generally, for me the “essentials” of biology content probe the big questions in biology and how to answer them. The big questions have lead to big theories—evolution, cell theory, genetics, development, ecology. Scott, rightfully so, is not satisfied with this answer so he continues to explore which is exactly what I hope he does.
Recently, Scott found a paper by Robin Wright that has really got him thinking. Here’s how Scott introduced her paper in his email to members of a PLC:
“Here is a very interesting article from Dr. Robin Wright, Associate Dean and professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development College of Biological Sciences at the
. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1201698 She makes a series of very convincing arguments that there are no essential concepts in biology (for non-majors), or any of the disciplines. What is essential to biological literacy is learning to think and act like a biologist, and the way that is done is through investigations that are of interest to the student and the teacher. Enthusiasm of the teacher, and guiding the students in their inquiry of topics is the only skill that matters. She makes MANY incredible arguments, and I think that some PLC time to discuss this perspective would be tremendously beneficial. This was really earth-shattering for me to read and contemplate.” Universityof Minnesota
Take time to read this article and make comments on your thoughts here. We’ll try to get Scott involved in an discussion, as well. Mike Klymkowsky has a counter point to Robins article that you should check out that may add to the discussion.