Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Genetic Symposium: A Model of Scientific Talk

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Genetic Symposium: A Model of Scientific Talk

Article excerpt

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The national science standards call for scientific literacy for all. To train scientifically-literate students, we need to model for them the way the scientific community communicates. We do this by asking students to write lab reports and read science texts, but how do we model "science talk"?

Scientists do talk. One formal structure of conversation is the symposium. Scientists routinely hold symposiums to gather and talk about a common topic. In my classroom, I have my students conduct a genetic symposium. Students are inherently interested in human genetics and genetic disorders. This interest sets the perfect stage to encourage students to actively engage in science talk.

To facilitate the process, I present my students with a list of rare genetic disorders. Each student chooses a genetic disorder, researches the disorder, and prepares a presentation for the class. The success of the classroom symposium is in the details: After choosing a disorder, my class heads to the library to become the "experts." In the library they find a cart of relevant books pulled from the stacks and they are directed to the library

Web site, where the librarian has compiled a list of valuable Web sites. Finally, they are given a guided research sheet I created to help focus them on the relevant concepts. Students use their research to prepare for their oral presentation and their conference paper--a handout that summarizes their disorder.

On the day of the symposium, students gather together to convene the "2007 Unionville High School Genetic Symposium. …

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