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ellenv's picture

What to Teach

I was reminded of my 11th and 12th grade Biology classes when we started taking about the difference between linear science versus seriously loopy science. Prior to those two classes in middle school and 9th grade, we had been taught the linear science rule of thumb which we then used in our labs. In 11th and 12th grade, however, we were taught the seriously loopy version of science, but not in a direct manner. Our teacher was up in front of the class and told us something along the lines of "when you are typing up your labs reports, make sure that in your conclusions you don't say that the results prove or disprove your hypothesis. Instead, make sure to say that the results support or do not support your hypothesis." That was all that she said on that matter, there was little explanation given as to why we should phrase our conclusions this way but I did know that if I said that my results proved my hypothesis rather than supported my hypothesis, a great number of points would be deducted from my lab grade. Near the end of 12th grade Bio a student asked why we were supposed to phrase it in such a way and my teacher initially responded "because that's the way that IB tells us to" and then paused for a few moments before launching into a description of seriously loopy science. I find it strange that my teacher had the opportunity to show us the "crack" that exists in science but chose not to until the end of our 2 years in her class. 

Looking back on this, it makes me think that my teacher's choice created a class that was somewhat of a contradiction. On the one hand, we had the idea drilled into our heads that hypotheses couldn't be proven. On the other hand, this idea was not used to challenge the structure of traditional science classes, rather it became part of this structure because a our teacher did not really incorporate it into our learning. At the same time in this class, we were being taught material that was specific knowledge that was deemed to be true by IB and our teacher. In that way, the encounter with seriously loopy science really only became a part of a linear science method of teaching. I wonder if such limited deviations from the traditional structure of education really do any good, or whether when they become a part of the structure they lose their weight and purpose.

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