Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Indigenous Knowledge in the Life Sciences Classroom: Put on Your De Bono Hats!

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Indigenous Knowledge in the Life Sciences Classroom: Put on Your De Bono Hats!

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The whole world was united in its condemnation of the pre-1994 apartheid regime in South Africa. Apartheid meant that many South Africans were robbed of their democratic voices and cultural identities. In this article, the authors would like to pose the question: Are you guilty of "knowledge apartheid" in your biology classroom? Does every student have a voice in your classroom? Do you respect the various cultural backgrounds of your students, and the indigenous knowledge they bring to the classroom? The development of the National Science Education Standards (1996) in the U.S. was guided by several principles, one being that school science reflects the intellectual and cultural traditions that characterize the practice of contemporary science. Also, Teaching Standard A has a subsection that states that a teacher should select science content and adapt and design curricula that meet the interests, knowledge, understanding, abilities and experiences of students (National Science Education Standards, 1996). Recent research (Zeidler, Sadler, Simmons & Howes, 2005) also points to the value of a socio-scientific issues (SSI) approach to science teaching. The SSI approach encourages students to consider how science-based issues affect their own lives and to reflect on the moral principles that underpin science. This article gives suggestions on how both the above-mentioned principles can be accommodated in the life science classroom. We do not argue that all indigenous knowledge claims should be accepted, or that they should be seen as science. This article builds on Content Standard G (History and Nature of Science), and that scientific explanations must meet certain criteria. We show how knowledge claims in the field of traditional healing could be scrutinized and subjected to experimental procedures in the classroom (National Science Education Standards, 1996).

The Relevance of Science Education Study (ROSE) showed that a very high negative correlation exists between students' perceptions of the relevance of science, and the development index of the country (Sjoberg & Schreiner, 2006). The more developed a country, the more irrelevant students often find the curriculum. A possible reason for this might be that curricula in developed countries subscribe to what Odora Hoppers (2004) calls "cosmopolitan knowledge," anchored in Western philosophies and scientific discoveries that might be alien to some students. This "westernized" focus on biology is often at the expense of indigenous knowledge (IK)--a practice that Odora Hoppers (2004) calls "knowledge apartheid." Though indigenous knowledge is most often marginalized in the biology classroom, it sustains millions of people economically, socially, and spiritually. Even in biology classes where IK is considered, it is often very clinical. Metaphorically one can say that IK included in the classroom is, more often than not, preserved in a formaldehyde solution. In this article we would like to show, based on our designed-based research, how one can include IK in a lively and academically sound way. In our view, many teachers are hesitant to incorporate IK in the classroom out of fear of infecting classroom teaching with pseudoscience. The teaching strategy explained in this article is anchored in "Western science," though it embraces cultural aspects and indigenous knowledge. It gives practical ideas on how one can address the "practice of contemporary science," as described in the National Science Education Standards (1996):

   Science is a way of knowing that is characterized by empirical
   criteria, logical argument, and skeptical review. Students
   should develop an understanding of what science is, what science
   is not, what science can and cannot do, and how science
   contributes to culture. (1)

You will need to adapt the activities for your particular situation, tapping into the cultural diversity in your classroom. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.