1. Research the relationship of cancer to genetics and the impact environmental influences can have on whether one gets a particular cancer or not.
2. Write up an interview with a physician or nurse who specializes in genetic disorders and their treatment.
3. Using different colored pipe cleaners to represent chromosomes and copper wire for centromeres and asters, make models of the stages of meiosis (formation of sex cells).
4. Write an article for the science section of a newspaper describing the progress that has been made in genetic engineering with plants and animals and how this may impact the world in the twenty-first century.
5. Conduct library research on new kinds of reproductive technologies such as sperm banks and in vitro fertilization. Describe procedures involved and success of these techniques. Write it up as a short pamphlet.
6. Write up your findings on causes of fetal abnormalities and deformities and present them in the form of a magazine article. Include implications for prenatal care and abortion.
d) Use both Performance Based Assessment (PBA) and a checklist method of evaluation. Include option of working in small groups.
In general a student’s work was valued by the number of class days they worked on their projects. There was a day by day check given of on task performance. Absence or extended inactivity was noted on the `hands-on’ section of the course grade sheet (a student keeps a copy in his or her folder of work). Students expressed a lot of appreciation for the opportunity to go at their own pace. In consequence I had much higher quality work. The trade off was that they did less but because they saw other student work, they were exposed to what they missed and as theory was presented, that work was referred to.
For ethical problem solving, a PBA is devised below. It is the PBA designed for the genetic situations described above and requiring a Deweyan ethical problem solving technique.
e) Devise a lesson plan with minimal class room management problems.
How could students choosing their own activities from a list of a wide variety of projects not cause undue chaos in terms of providing materials and so forth? (For the list, see below—students also had a package of step-by-step `mini’ activities that they could choose from. It was particularly useful for getting unfocused or frequently absent students immediately working). As it turned out, there were no unmanageable problems. In fact quite the opposite happened. Behavior problems largely disappeared and my level of stress went right down to a healthy and enjoyable level. Trying to have all my students working on activities that I assigned was far harder and exhausting than having students work at what they want to do. Putting the responsibility on to students to choose their own work was hardest for the normally disruptive or non-achieving students. They could not get their attention the normal way. Good students could get their education without disruption. Some of the non-compliant only cottoned on to the idea that they chose their own work and that their grade was dependent upon them choosing to do what they wanted to do, at the very end of the course. Only a minority chose to do nothing and they, of course, received a failing grade, but then they were the same students that had failed previously. A few high achievers expressed unhappiness at having to choose—the few passive students that enjoyed following orders. From my point of view, the experience of students having real freedom within the curriculum framework was so good that I would never go back to how I taught before.
e) Link ethical problem solving to instructional activities
Tack on to each project a reflection on the possible ethical consequences of the information learned. Examples are worked out above but may be stimulated by showing such videos as Barbara Walter’s ABC TV special, `PERFECT BABY’. Though more than five years old, the video anticipates the most critical genetic issues that will be major problems in the twenty-first century as well as held students attention.
WHEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM
1. STOP, CALM DOWN, & THINK
2. DESCRIBE YOUR SITUATION
3. WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF YOUR PROBLEM?
4. THINK UP SOLUTIONS
5. THINK OF CONSEQUENCES
6. CHOOSE THE BEST ONE & PLAN YOUR ACTION
7. DO IT. ACT!
*DID IT WORK ? IF NOT, GO BACK TO STEP 1.
Adapted from Weissberg and Caplan- `When you have a problem’.