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A Half Century of Biology Education
I want to begin by saying ABLE’s 25th anniversary year was marked by the death of two of the most important biology teachers in recent times. Arthur Guyton died in an automobile accident in April. His Textbook of Medical Physiology must rival Modern Biology as one of the most widely used texts in the history of the biological sciences, but there is a major difference -- Guyton wrote all the editions himself. He must also hold the record for bad versions of what he wrote, as other authors changed his words to avoid plagiarism.
received many honors. One held
special meaning: the 1978 invitation from the Royal College of Physicians
Chris Parsons, producer of David Attenborough’s Life on Earth, also died recently. He worked with the best people in biological film production, e.g. Peter Parks and Howard Hall, striving to make sure programs were accurate and educational. One of his most important contributions was the development of ARKive. More and more resources that allow us to experience biology like OrcaLive are appearing on the Internet. The Scientist has to be one of the best ways to keep up with the latest events in biology.
Ruth Von Blum was one of the four members of the Committee to Establish a Laboratory Teaching Organization and Library. She had taken a position at NSF when ABLE was founded and told people at the first meeting that she wanted to work with them. I spoke with the director of education at NSF at NSTA about ABLE, emphasizing that our members had a major influence on future teachers because they took our courses. He wasn’t interested.
in my career I spent several years trying to make labs work before I
discovered that people in the research community knew what to do. In the ad in Science that described the Biology Laboratory Teaching Workshop at
In the last few years it has been more difficult to find new people to do new workshops. I’ve just talked about one reason for that, but there is another reason. When we put out a call for workshops, we are mainly asking the people in our own community. In the 1980s I spent a lot of time reading the Journal of Biological Education, The American Biology Teacher, The Science Teacher, and most importantly, using Current Contents to find people with new lab activities. Tony Glass’s lab on Chemiosmotic Principles came from The Journal of Biological Education, Bill Bell did a lab on Chemical Communication in Cockroaches because I had seen his book The Laboratory Cockroach, Rollie Schafer did four great labs from his and Bruce Oakley’s wonderful lab manual (Experimental Neurobiology), and Charlie Carlson did his neat Grasshopper Demonstrations because I had seen his biology exhibits at the Exploratorium.
teaching is about literacy. Most
courses in biology are designed to teach students to speak biology and
to write proper scientific papers. Students
get very little experience with living things and we produce biologists
and teachers who have never seen or experienced much of what they talk
about. I’m sure much of the pressure to do this comes
from standardized curricula, textbooks, testing and elitist efforts
to promote scholarship.
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