Problem Solving in Biology a Methodology: A Methodology Is Described That Teaches Science Process by Combining Informal Logic and a Heuristic for Rating Factual Reliability. This System Facilitates Student Hypothesis Formation, Testing, and Evaluation of Results, and in Conjunction with the Logic Path of the Theory of Natural Selection Is Used to Interpret New Data

By Wisehart, Gary; Mandell, Mark | Journal of College Science Teaching, March-April 2008 | Go to article overview

Problem Solving in Biology a Methodology: A Methodology Is Described That Teaches Science Process by Combining Informal Logic and a Heuristic for Rating Factual Reliability. This System Facilitates Student Hypothesis Formation, Testing, and Evaluation of Results, and in Conjunction with the Logic Path of the Theory of Natural Selection Is Used to Interpret New Data


Wisehart, Gary, Mandell, Mark, Journal of College Science Teaching


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

While teaching methods have changed over the years, the products of a biological education have remained the same--knowledge, translation, and interpretation--items at the low end of Bloom's Taxonomy scale. In undergraduate instruction, the higher-level, problem-solving skills of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation have been largely ignored.

We first recognized this as a shortcoming almost two decades ago after being exposed to the works of John Dewey and Ralph Lewis (see Table 1). Dewey described the "scientific method" as a student activity, which was subsequently organized into a five-part analysis format that includes hypothesis formation and testing, and requires Bloom's highest cognitive levels. Lewis expressed the organizing principles of biology in simple terms with the goal of using them to problem solve, as is done in chemistry and physics. The common ground of these two concepts eventually occurred to us: The five-part analysis and Lewis's general principles both present findings in the form of an argument, a series of premises and conclusions subject to the rules of science and of informal logic. We realized that if the Dewey/Lewis concepts could be integrated functionally, it would facilitate problem solving at the upper end of the Bloom scale.

The science of biology has two main products: factual information and scientific argument. Undergraduates generally lack the time, laboratory training, and field experience to collect new factual information, but they can evaluate presentations of fact by others if they are given criteria. Similarly, with training and practice, students have the capacity to analyze scientific arguments on biological topics, and to construct and evaluate fact-based, scientific arguments of their own.

Our scheme begins with simple, relativistic criteria for determining factual reliability, and gradually expands it to more closely reflect scientific practice. We connect fact to argument using a premise/conclusion format adapted from informal logic, and demonstrate the relative reliability of conclusions based on argument type and construction. Students evaluate the reliability of conclusions based on the dual criteria of fact and argument type/construction. This leads to five-part analysis problems, which require students to construct their own arguments based on data gathered by scientific professionals. After problem solving with this scheme, students are asked to examine and evaluate arguments for the underlying principles of biology, and apply them to new sets of facts.

Reliability of fact

Not all "facts" are of equal reliability. To introduce the idea of relative reliability, we rely on examples from a variety of media sources that offer a variety of current topics, simply presented, and spanning the spectrum of reliability. Through experience we have learned that when doing something different, start small. We begin with a simplified version of our final rubric. It is based on the primary criteria of science: observation, repeatability, source, and because science is a community activity, consensus.

After student practice with media examples, we add other concepts to the rubric shown in Table 2, including adequate sample size, and control and experimental groups. Our final table presents additional and more sophisticated criteria for judging relative reliability of factual information to be used in conjunction with Table 3. Throughout a 16-week semester, this material is used in lecture and laboratory, and is supported by homework, in-class collaborative assignments, and individual assignments.

Reliability of arguments in science

Next we introduce aspects of informal logic including inductive, deductive, and conditional deductive arguments. Our focus is on the relative reliability of conclusions based on argument type. In-class and homework assignments give students practice in identifying the argument types presented in popular science articles (see example below), arguments that may be outlined and analyzed using the premise/conclusion format.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Problem Solving in Biology a Methodology: A Methodology Is Described That Teaches Science Process by Combining Informal Logic and a Heuristic for Rating Factual Reliability. This System Facilitates Student Hypothesis Formation, Testing, and Evaluation of Results, and in Conjunction with the Logic Path of the Theory of Natural Selection Is Used to Interpret New Data
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.