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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools Content Panel Report: Biology
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools 1 Introduction The National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on Programs for Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in American High Schools (parent committee) formed a biology panel to evaluate and compare the Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and alternative programs for advanced study in biology with regard to content, pedagogy, and outcomes. The panel held two meetings, in April and June 2000, for the purpose of formulating answers to the questions under its charge from the parent committee (see Appendix A). The panel was chaired by a member of the parent committee, who served as liaison to the committee and consolidated the panel’s findings and recommendations into this report. Panel members also included two master teachers with extensive experience in teaching high school biology and four university professors—an educator with interests in biology, two biologists with primary interests in education, and a biologist with primary interests in university-level teaching and research (for biolographic sketches, see Appendix B). The panel’s conclusions are based on published evidence and the personal expertise of the panel members, as well as discussions with three consultants: an additional IB teacher who has worked extensively with the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), an Educational Testing Service (ETS) consultant for the AP Biology Test Committee, and a Washington, D.C. area AP teacher. The panel drew on a variety of published sources, in particular on material from the College Board and the ETS (AP program); the IBO; and previous NRC reports, including Fulfilling the Promise: Biology Education in the Nation’s Schools (NRC, 1990); National Science Education Standards (referred to below as NSES; NRC, 1996a) and its recent addendum Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards (INSES; NRC, 2000b); and How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (HPL; NRC, 1999) and its addendum How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice (HPL2; NRC, 2000a). All panel members provided written contributions that were incorporated or excerpted in this report. The final report was reviewed
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools and approved by the panel members, and all the conclusions presented herein represent the panel’s consensus opinions. Some of the arguments for these conclusions are based on anecdotal evidence and the experience of individual panel members, as well as published studies; we have tried to indicate clearly the nature of our sources as appropriate in the text. As important as the panel’s specific responses to the questions under its charge is its consensus opinion that major systemic changes are overdue in biology teaching, not only in high schools but also in primary schools and colleges. The AP and IB courses, while including some of the best education in the subject currently available at the secondary level, tend in general to be out of date, too broad, and too inflexible in their curricula. Moreover, they often ignore the results of recent research on science learning, pedagogy, and assessment and do not conform to the pedagogical standards of the NSES and INSES. The panel judges IB to be superior to AP in many respects, but making AP more like IB will not be enough; rather, systemic changes are required in the preparation of teachers and the teaching of biology at all levels. For example, the panel concurs with the view (NRC, 1996b, 2000b; Horn, Nunez, and Bobbitt, 2000) that many of the current shortcomings of both primary and secondary school courses stem directly from the mode of instruction experienced by high school teachers as college students. College-level introductory courses are also a substantial part of the problem because their content has been driving the AP biology curriculum in particular. Systemic change in the teaching of mathematics was recently initiated with support from the National Science Foundation. One result has been striking changes in AP calculus instruction, demonstrating that the College Board can be responsive to reform efforts. A similar systemic initiative is under way in chemistry. The panel concludes that efforts to improve the AP and IB programs should be part of a broad initiative to reform biology teaching, as outlined in the NSES and the recent report of the Glenn Commission (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000). We are encouraged that the recent recommendations of the Commission on the Future of the Advanced Placement Program [AP Commission], (2001), discussed further below, appear likely to move the AP program in this direction. Chapter 2 of this report defines what constitutes advanced high school biology, briefly describes the AP and IB programs, and lists some characteristics the panel would recommend for an ideal advanced biology course at the secondary level. Chapters 3 through 5 present the panel’s responses to each of the questions under its charge (see Appendix A), under headings that correspond closely to the questions as posed. (Since many of the questions in the charge overlap, this format results in some inevitable redundancy.) The discussion focuses on the AP and IB programs because they are
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools the most widespread and influential and are the programs for which most information is available and because the panel had neither the time nor the resources necessary to address alternative programs in any depth. We evaluate the status of these two programs, compare them, and make recommendations for change. The first question in the panel’s charge was, “To what degree do the AP and IB programs incorporate current knowledge about cognition and learning in mathematics and science in their curricula, instructions, and assessments?” We deal separately with the three aspects of this question in Chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 6 presents a summary and discussion of the panel’s three primary and eleven secondary recommendations.
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools 2 Advanced Study in Biology: Ideal and Reality An advanced high school biology course should reflect the current excitement in the field of biology, where the field is now, where it is going, and the increasing extent to which it impinges on our daily lives. An advanced course should be up to date and broad enough to give students an overall picture of the field but should not attempt to be comprehensive, since doing so is impossible in a 1-year biology course at any level. Advanced study in biology should be demanding, not in the sense of covering all or even any particular areas of biology, but rather in requiring students to read and comprehend a college-level text and science articles at the level of, for example, Scientific American; solve problems; carry out meaningful experiments; collect, analyze, and interpret real data; write coherently about their conclusions; relate these conclusions to real-life situations and their other academic coursework; and take some responsibility for their own learning. Students should not just acquire biological knowledge, but rather experience the process of biological science, including generation of hypotheses from observations, design of experiments, encounters with unexpected results, collaborative learning and laboratory work with other students and teachers, and presentation of their analyses and conclusions for critical review by their peers. To meet these expectations, both students and teachers need to be adequately prepared. Students should have taken a prior biology course or at least a prior chemistry course, preferably both. Students, unless they are exceptional, should not take advanced biology as their first high school science course; most should be juniors or seniors, so they will be mature and experienced enough to take advantage of the advanced work. Teachers should have at least a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree in a biological discipline, as well as the appropriate educational credentials. They should also have participated in at least one summer workshop of at least a week’s duration as specific preparation in both the pedagogy and the labo-
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools ratory approaches for an advanced problem-oriented, student-centered biology course. The Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) biology courses embody the above ideal to different extents, partly because the two programs were developed to serve quite different purposes (as discussed in greater detail in the full report of the parent committee). Here we provide merely a brief summary. The AP program was initiated in 1955 by the College Board to provide college-level courses for advanced students in high schools. A major goal of the program has been academic acceleration, providing these students with credits that can be used to place out of introductory courses and shorten the time to a college degree. Colleges use a single high-stakes assessment, the national AP examination administered by the College Board through the Educational Testing Service (ETS), as the basis for granting credit and advanced placement. The exam tests knowledge of topics taught in a small sample of college introductory biology courses (see Chapter 3), and the AP courses are designed and taught to maximize student performance on the exam; therefore, relatively few college introductory courses drive the content and pedagogy of AP courses. The IB Programme was developed in the late 1960s to provide an international standard of secondary education primarily for the children of American, British, and European diplomats and international businesspeople, allowing these children to qualify for university admission in their home countries after undergoing schooling abroad. As with AP, a summative high-stakes exam developed by the International Baccalaureate Organisation is a major component of the assessment process that determines eligibility for university admission, but it is supplemented by several formative assessments, such as a portfolio of laboratory reports, that are also used for student evaluations. Although strong performance in IB courses is used to grant advanced placement at many universities, the focus of the IB program is on providing a high-quality, interdisciplinary university preparatory education rather than fulfilling specific university course requirements. Because it is not constrained by university curricula, IB is freer than the AP program to evolve at its own pace and in its own directions. The AP and IB courses in biology and several other fields are clearly here to stay. They are becoming increasingly popular in American high schools among school administrators, school boards, teachers, students, and parents for many reasons, including the following: For high schools and school systems, because these programs are widely recognized and judged by national or international examinations, offering AP or IB courses can enhance a school’s reputation and help in recruiting
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools and retaining superior students and may attract more resources from state government. For teachers, AP and IB are generally the most prestigious courses, providing the most resources, attracting the best students, and often offering opportunities for further professional development. For students, the courses provide more challenging learning opportunities as well as enhanced credentials for college admission. For parents, the courses hold the promise of not only improved chances for college admission but also college credit, with possible savings in tuition costs. Because of their growing popularity, AP and IB courses represent an excellent opportunity to optimize learning in biology for many of the nation’s best students. However, the panel believes that realizing such optimization will require substantial changes in the way the courses are organized and taught. The panel’s analysis of current AP and IB courses is based primarily on the published course outlines. We are greatly encouraged by the recent report of the AP Commission with regard to the future of AP (Commission on the Future of the Advanced Placement Program, 2001), in particular its recommendation that research leaders in the scientific disciplines and in pedagogy be engaged to ensure that current reforms and best practices are reflected in AP courses (see Chapter 3). We are well aware that some highly qualified teachers are able to transcend the current prescribed AP and IB curricula, teach state-of-the-art biology, meet many of the content and pedagogical standards set forth in the National Science Education Standards (NSES), and offer courses to which some of the criticisms elaborated below do not apply. For the many teachers who are not prepared to take such initiatives, however, it is important that the curricula and teacher preparation for these courses be upgraded and assessed to ensure high minimum standards of content, laboratory experience, and pedagogy, with the eventual goal of meeting the NSES.
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools 3 Quality and Content of the Learning Experience for Students HOW IS ADVANCED BIOLOGY BEING TAUGHT? Advanced Placement (AP) courses and to a somewhat lesser extent International Baccalaureate (IB) courses generally rely on the traditional transmission–reception mode of instruction, rather than a constructivist model in which students develop their own conceptual framework through inquiry-based, problem-centered active learning, as recommended by the National Science Education Standards (NSES). Changes in teaching approach are needed in both programs, as discussed in Chapter 4. Additional problems with AP courses, discussed in the following sections, are that they attempt to cover too many areas in a single year; they are often taught in one standard 47-minute period per day, which makes meaningful laboratory experience almost impossible; and they are driven by the need to prepare students for the AP examination rather than by concern for an optimal student learning experience. These conclusions are based on the panel’s conversations with AP teachers, the written guides for teachers of AP courses, and the emphasis on coverage in the AP tests. WHAT BIOLOGY IS BEING TAUGHT? The AP course outline is not up to date, and it overemphasizes environmental, population, and organismic (EPO) biology at the expense of molecular, cell, and developmental (MCD) and evolutionary biology. Although similarly out of date, the IB curriculum achieves a more appropriate balance of the EPO and MCD areas. The AP curriculum should include more on the process of science, including the responsible conduct of research, and the core IB curriculum should include more evolutionary biology. The core curricula of both programs should be updated to include concepts from current areas of rapid progress, such as genomics, cell signaling, mechanisms of development, and molecular evolution.
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools How Are the Curricula Developed? It should be noted that the above criticisms and suggestions are also applicable to many introductory-level college biology courses. Since a major stated goal of the AP program is to allow students to place out of these courses, the AP curriculum is designed to include all the subject areas that might be encountered in any such introductory course (see the following section). To formulate the course outline, the College Board sends a curriculum survey questionnaire every 5 years to several hundred colleges and universities that have a history of granting AP credit. In the most recent survey (Educational Testing Service [ETS], personal communication, 1997), about 500 institutions were contacted, and only 56 responded. Of these 56, only about 6 are institutions that might generally be recognized as having first-rank biology programs (University of California at Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon University, the University of Washington at Seattle, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, and Brandeis University), and 16–20 might be considered second-rank. Therefore, the AP curriculum has been based on a sample that is (1) very small and (2) not representative of the nation’s best colleges and universities. The recent report of the AP Commission (Commission on the Future of the Advanced Placement Program, 2001) recommends that the College Board change this approach to course development substantially as mentioned above, replacing the current survey-based curriculum with course outlines based on input from leaders in the biological disciplines, as well as pedagogy, “to ensure that current reforms and best practices are reflected in AP” (p. 12). This more proactive stance is intended to position AP as a lever for positive change in curriculum and instruction. The panel strongly endorses this change, which will undoubtedly help in addressing some of the concerns regarding AP that are discussed below. The IB curriculum is formulated by an international consortium and also revised on a 5-year cycle. The consortium consists primarily of experienced IB teachers, most of whom are present or past examiners or moderators. (IB does not publish the committee rosters.) As noted earlier, because the IB curriculum is not constrained by the need to prepare students in specific areas for an advanced placement exam, it tends to be less comprehensive and more flexible than its AP counterpart, with 12 percent of class time allocated for options and 25 percent mandated for laboratory work over a 2-year period. Keeping Up to Date Biology is in an explosive phase of development. Almost every day there are articles in the newspaper about some new advance in biomedical
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools knowledge. Four of the most exciting areas of biological research today are the following: Genomics. Sequencing of the complete genomic DNA of humans and other organisms is making it possible to count the number of genes required for control of development and physiology and ultimately to determine the functions of all these genes. Mechanisms of development. This work is addressing how genes and their encoded proteins control the development of a fertilized egg into an adult organism. Cell signaling. Researchers are learning how cells talk to each other via signals from transmitting cells to receptors at the cell surfaces of receiving cells, as well as working out the pathways of interacting proteins that transduce a signal to the cytoskeleton and nucleus of the receiving cell to activate specific behaviors and changes in gene expression. Evolution and the relatedness of organisms at the molecular level. Researchers have come increasingly to realize that all organisms utilize not only similar molecules but also entire homologous systems of signaling and response for the same purposes in development and physiology. Modern aspects of these topics are largely lacking from the AP and IB course syllabi. Although it can be argued that secondary-level courses do not need to be up to the minute to be educationally valuable, courses that omit these topics lose an opportunity to engage students with issues in biology that are related to their daily lives. Sample Suggestions The following are some suggestions for addressing the shortcomings noted above: Expand discussion of the fluid mosaic model of membranes (dating from the 1970s) to include ligands, receptors, and signal transduction. Extend Mendelian genetics and the concept of mapping to the nucleotide sequence level. Use the rapidly advancing knowledge of developmental mechanisms as a review and synthesis of everything students have learned previously about gene expression, cell motility, signaling, and so on. Introduce the concepts of protein databases, sequence comparisons of homologous proteins, and building of sequence-based evolutionary trees. In the IB course outline, almost all the material on evolution is in the optional curricular materials. Given that evolution provides the conceptual
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools details; and to compare endocytosis and exocytosis, phagocytosis and pinocytosis, and vesicle-mediated transport. Students must also be able to explain the dynamic relationships among the nuclear membrane, rough endoplasmic reticulum Golgi apparatus, and cell surface membrane. They must be able to describe ways in which vesicles are used to transport materials within a cell and to the cell surface, as well as membrane proteins and their positions within membranes. (Students can use a series of diagrams to demonstrate structure relationships and how materials are moved. They must know about channel proteins and the flow of materials through channels or vesicles. Knowledge of the chemical nature of materials is not required. Mention of pores and the fact that some intrinsic proteins are anchored is also expected.) Students should be able to outline the functions of membrane proteins as antibody recognition sites, hormone binding sites, catalysts for biochemical reactions, and sites of electron carriers. (Again, nothing is included about the most important class—receptors for cell signaling—except in the oblique reference to hormone binding sites.) AP requires that students be able to detail how the structural organization of membranes provides for transport and recognition and the mechanisms by which substances cross membranes. They must also address how variations in the structure account for functional differences among membranes. Questions on the AP and IB exams are comparable in the degree of detail expected. Examples—AP exam questions related to cell membranes (May 1999 exam, series of questions based on an illustration): 17. Membranes are components of all of the following except a (A) microtubule, (B) nucleus, (C) Golgi apparatus, (D) mitochondrion, (E) lysosome. 31. All of the following are typical components of the plasma membrane of a eukaryotic cell except (A) glycoproteins, (B) cytochromes, (C) cholesterol, (D) phospholipids, (E) integral proteins. 61. Which of the following cellular processes is coupled with the hydrolysis of ATP? (A) Facilitated diffusion, (B) Active transport, (C) Chemiosmosis, (D) Osmosis, (E) Na+ influx into a nerve cell. Questions 114–116 refer to an experiment in which a dialysis-tubing bag is filled with a mixture of 3 percent starch and 3 percent glucose and placed in a beaker of distilled water. After 3 hours, glucose can be detected in the water outside of the dialysis-tubing bag, but starch cannot.
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools 114. From the initial conditions and results described, which of the following is a logical conclusion? (A) The initial concentration of glucose in the bag is higher than the initial concentration of starch in the bag. (B) The pores of the bag are larger than the glucose molecules but smaller than the starch molecules. (C) The bag is not selectively permeable. (D) A net movement of water into the beaker has occurred. (E) The molarity of the solution in the bag and the molarity of the solution in the surrounding beaker are the same. 115. Which of the following best describes the conditions expected after 24 hours? (A) The bag will contain more water than it did in the original condition. (B) The contents of the bag will have the same osmotic concentration as the surrounding solution. (C) Water potential in the bag will be greater than water potential in the surrounding solution. (D) Starch molecules will continue to pass through the bag. (E) A glucose test on the solution in the bag will be negative. 116. If, instead of the bag, a potato slice were placed in a beaker of distilled water, which of the following would be true of the potato slice? (A) It would gain mass. (B) It would neither gain nor lose mass. (C) It would absorb solutes from the surrounding liquid. (D) It would lose water until water potential inside the cells is equal to zero. (E) The cells of the potato would increase their metabolic activity. Essay: Communication occurs among cells in a multicellular organism. Choose three of the following examples of cell-to-cell communication, and for each example, describe the communication that occurs and the types of responses that result from the communication. Communication between two plant cells. Communication between two immune cells. Communication either between a neuron and another neuron or between a neuron and a muscle cell. Communication between a specific endocrine gland cell and its target cell.
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools Examples—IB questions related to cell membranes: [November 1999 Paper One (multiple choice), #2]: 2. The cells of plant roots can take up ions from the soil against the concentration gradient. What is the process used? (A) Osmosis. (B) Passive transport. (C) Diffusion. (E) Carrier-assisted transport. [November 1999 Paper Two]: Part A (Extended Response) #2 A. Draw the structure of a nephron. B. Identify where most active transport occurs and identify one specific location where active transport occurs in plants. C. Define water potential. D. Explain the process of water uptake in roots by osmosis. E. List three abiotic factors which affect the rate of transpiration in a typical terrestrial mesophytic plant. Part B (Extended Response) A. List three functions of lipids. B. Outline the production of ATP by chemiosmosis in the mitrochondrion. C. Explain the process of muscle contraction.
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools Appendix D Laboratory Experience in AP and IB Biology Courses The AP manual (Educational Testing Service, 1999) suggests “since one-fourth to one-third of the credit in comparable college courses is derived from laboratory work, AP courses should likewise emphasize laboratory work.” There are 12 recommended laboratory exercises: Lab 1—Diffusion and Osmosis Lab 2—Enzyme Catalysis Lab 3—Mitosis and Meiosis Lab 4—Plant Pigments and Photosynthesis Lab 5—Cell Respiration Lab 6—Molecular Biology Lab 7—Genetics of Organisms Lab 8—Population Genetics and Evolution Lab 9—Transpiration Lab 10—Physiology of the Circulatory System Lab 11—Animal Behavior Lab 12—Dissolved Oxygen and Aquatic Primary Production The AP laboratories are not inquiry based and involve little instrumentation. The write-up varies from laboratory to laboratory and involves primarily filling in the data table and/or blanks along with providing some “short” extended responses. There is no external check on whether the laboratories are completed. An example is AP Lab 6, Molecular Biology. Lab 6a demonstrates bacterial transformation using E. coli and the pAMP plasmid. Students are given a step-by-step procedure. The analysis consists of four questions: #1 is a cell count; #2 is a comparison; #3 leads students through a calculation of the transformation efficiency; and #4 is open ended and asks students to discuss factors influencing transformation efficiency. Lab 6b is called “Restriction Enzyme Cleavage of DNA and Electrophoresis.” Students are told to conduct
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools the lab following directions provided either by their teacher or by the kit they are using. Students do not perform their own digest; they merely load DNA that has been digested for them. They are provided with a photo of a gel carrying size markers and asked to represent graphically the relationship between migration rate and fragment length. They then analyze their own gels to determine the size of their fragments by measuring the migration rates. The IB program requires that 25 percent of the teaching hours “be spent following an internally assessed scheme of practical/investigative work, related to all aspects of the program including the options.” The subject and design of the labs are at the teacher’s discretion. These are used to create a portfolio and must be written using a specified format. The “criteria” are as follows: Planning (a) Defined problem(s), research question(s); formulated hypothesis(es); selected any relevant variables. Planning (b) Designed realistic procedures to include appropriate apparatus, materials, methods for both the control of variables and collection of data. Data collection Observed and recorded raw data with precision and presented them in an organized way (using a range of appropriate scientific methods/techniques). Data analysis Transformed, manipulated and presented data (in a variety of appropriate ways) to provide effective communication. Evaluation Evaluated the result(s) of experiment(s) and evaluated procedure(s); suggested modifications to the procedure(s), where appropriate. A summative evaluation is done of the following three skills: Manipulative skills Carried out a range of techniques proficiently with due attention to safety; followed instructions. Personal skills (a) Worked within a team; recognized contributions of others; encouraged the contributions of others. Personal skills (b) Approached experiments/investigations/projects and problem-solving exercises with self-motivation and perseverance and in an ethical manner; paid due attention to the environmental impact. The portfolio accounts for 24 percent of the student’s final grade, derived from the internal assessment by the teacher. The teacher grades both
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools the Group 4 project (interdisciplinary investigation) and the labs, which together constitute the portfolio. IB teachers are required to submit a description (“practical scheme of work”) of laboratory work done in their class to an external examiner. The examiner moderates the overall practical scheme of work experienced by the students and provides feedback to teachers and schools on their compliance with the IBO internal assessment requirements. Portfolios from individual students are sampled by the examiners to enhance standardization of grades across the program. There is no laboratory in the IB program that is directly comparable to the above AP example. Teachers may select any molecular genetic activities they wish. However, teachers are provided with an “inquiry template” that specifies what components a laboratory should include. Recommended components are Background Information, Question/Hypothesis, Design/Procedure, Data Collection, Data Analysis, Evaluation, and Manipulative and Personal Skills. Students are charged to work collaboratively but with individual accountability and to pay attention to the ethical and environmental implications of the investigation. Not all laboratories must include all the above components, but each component must be assessed twice during the course (and teachers are encouraged to “address” each component multiple times).
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools Appendix E Some Useful Web Sites for Advanced Biology Courses For obvious reasons, no listing of such sites can be complete, as the Web resources relevant to biology teaching are expanding daily. Presented below is a sampling of useful sites known to the panel as of this writing. Simple searches by readers will turn up many additional valuable resources. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): http://aaas.org/ Association of Science and Technology Centers: http://www.astc.org/ BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium: http://bioquest.org Biological Sciences Curriculum Study http://www.bscs.org Cornell Math and Science Gateway: http://www.tc.cornell.edu/Edu/MathSciGateway/ Discovery: http://www.discovery.com/ Edvotek (The Biotechnology Education Company) http://www.edvotek.com Entrez http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Entrez Instructional Materials in Science Education: http://www.ncsu.edu/imse/
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools Microscopy Primer: http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/index.html National Association of Biology Teachers: http://www.nabt.org National Center for Biotechnology Information http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov National Sciences Teachers Association: http://www.nsta.org National Science Education Standards: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/4962.html Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/5787.html National Science Foundation Student Summer Opportunities: http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/ehr/esie/studentops.htm National Science Foundation Teacher Enhancement Summer Opportunities: http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/ehr/esie/teso/ Exploratorium: http://www.exploratorium.edu Eisenhower National Clearinghouse: http://www.enc.org Lawrence Hall of Science: http://www.lhs.berkeley.edu Access Excellence: http://www.gene.com/ae Cells Alive: http://www.cellsalive.com National Center for Biotechnology Information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov The On-Line Biology Book: http://gened.emc.maricopa.edu/bio/bio181/BIOBK/BioBookTOC.html
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools Appendix F Conclusions and Recommendations from the 1990 NRC Report Fulfilling the Promise: Biology Education in the Nation’s Schools (1) “We are concerned that the AP biology course has been modeled on introductory college biology courses that for many students are notoriously poor educational experiences. The time has come to stop designing curricula by the process of serial dilution, in which the high school course is a thin version of the college course, and the middle school course is a thin version of the high school course.” (p. 85) (2) “… [s]erious problems, both philosophical and practical, attend the AP biology program” (p. 85). To paraphrase: Covers too many aspects of biology in too short a time. Requires “teaching to the examination.” Diverts academically able students from other high school courses to a college-level focus. (3) We are skeptical whether AP biology is commonly able to provide an exposure equivalent to that offered in most colleges” (p. 86). (4) The report therefore made recommendations (pp. 86–87): A consensus needs to be reached as to what the AP biology course should be. The present policy of modeling the AP course after a composite view of college courses is missing opportunities for generating a unique high-school experience, providing a more realistic introduction to experimentation, and providing better college preparation. Although the recent inclusion of quantitative experimenta-
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools tion in the AP Program was needed and is commendable, an introductory college course may not be the soundest educational experience for students who have time for a second course in biology in high school. Whether the AP course will develop into a strong component of biology education or will itself become an obstacle to reform is unclear. A national body of educators, high-school and college biology teachers, and scientists should make specific recommendations about the AP curriculum, examination, and college credit. (See also Chapter 8.) The College Board should be asked to study fully its own record of success, follow up on the college placement of students, and assess compliance of high schools with its recommendations for prerequisites. Whatever their form, AP or other advanced biology courses should not be taken instead of chemistry, physics, or mathematics. Nor should they become the “honors” section, taken in lieu of the first high-school course in biology. The AP biology course should be taken as late in high school as possible, preferably in the senior year, to enable the subject to be taught as an experimental science to students whose maturity is close to that of college freshmen. Even a properly designed AP course in biology is inappropriate for younger students and for those without maximal preparation in mathematics and the physical sciences. We suggest that the terminal-year AP biology course provide intensive treatment of a few topics in molecular biology, cell biology, physiology, evolution, and ecology. Emphasis should be on experimental design, experimentation and observation, data analysis, and critical reading. Thus, the course cannot be modeled after existing college courses, which broadly cover all biology. Engaging students in direct investigations of natural phenomena without attempting to “cover” the subject matter of the introductory college biology course is judged by this committee to be more educationally sound than the current program. A rigorous examination devoted to problem solving that requires the application of biological concepts should accompany such a revision. This course should be taught only by teachers both capable of providing a sophisticated and broad knowledge of biology and having the ability, training, experience, resources, and time to oversee an independent experimental approach. For example, a teacher who has not had first-hand experience in independent research should not be assigned to teach AP biology. Specific inservice training and certification should be used to ensure that only qualified teachers teach the AP course. The College Board should take initiatives to see that the program meets those more demanding specifications, but school
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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools administrators must understand and cooperate as well. If AP science courses are to be offered, there should be a line item in the school budget to support them, and they should not be given at the expense of regular science laboratory activities. The premise that AP courses provide college credit is not necessarily flawed; however, the nature of what the credit is for needs examination. A second course giving instruction in scientific reasoning, based on experimental design, and using sophisticated physical, chemical, and mathematical, as well as biological, principles would in fact provide better preparation for college than the present broad review. Colleges and high schools should both recognize the value of a second course in experimental science taken at the end of high school. Such a course need not be sponsored by the College Board or be designated “advanced placement.”
Representative terms from entire chapter: