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The Nature of Discourse throughout 5E Lessons in a Large Enrolment College Biology Course

Abstract

Large enrolment science courses play a significant role in educating undergraduate students. The discourse in these classes usually involves an instructor lecturing with little or no student participation, despite calls from current science education reform documents to elicit and utilize students’ ideas in teaching. In this study, we used the 5E instructional model to develop and implement four lessons in a large enrolment introductory biology course with multiple opportunities for teacher-student and student-student interaction. Data consisted of video and audio recordings of whole-class and small-group discussions that took place throughout the study. We then used a science classroom discourse framework developed by Mortimer and Scott (2003) to characterize the discursive interactions in each 5E lesson phase. Analysis of the data resulted in two assertions. First, the purpose, communicative approach, patterns of discourse, and teaching interventions were unique to each 5E lesson phase. Second, the type of lesson topic influenced the content of the discourse. We discuss how the findings help characterize the discourse of each phase in a 5E college science lesson and propose a model to understand internalization through discursive interaction using this reform-based approach. We conclude with implications for facilitating discourse in college science lessons and future research. This study provides support for using the discourse framework to characterize discursive interaction in college science courses.

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Acknowledgements

This article is dedicated to the memory of our colleague and friend, Prof. Sandra Abell, who succumbed to cancer during the preparation of the manuscript. She was a remarkable force for the improvement of science education, and provided us with inspiration and guidance as we pursued this study.

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Correspondence to Aaron J. Sickel.

Appendix A: Example of Lesson T-Chart

Appendix A: Example of Lesson T-Chart

Lesson 1: Micro- and Macro-evolution

Content Goal

The goal of this lesson is to expand upon and help students reach a deeper understanding about the ideas of macro- and microevolution. The class has learned both aspects of evolutionary theory without the explicit use of these terms, since these terms are not currently used in college classrooms. However, questions during the previous class period raised concerns for many students and so an extra day was taken to reevaluate the lessons already learned in light of these terms. The goal was to help students understand that both are supported by much evidence and are already parts of their understanding of evolutionary theory.

5E T-Chart:

Key Point of Lecture Teaching Strategy
• Classroom prep • Use PowerPoint for visual
• [1–2 min] • Display Announcements slide (upcoming exam, research being conducted in class related to scientific discourse & ask for volunteers)
• ENGAGE students into thinking about the difference between macro- and micro-evolution. • Share a few of the ‘burning questions’ that were posed by students via email noting that these were THEIR questions and have shaped the structure of the lesson today.
• [3–4 min] • Afterwards, ask students (by a show of hands) if they thought about macro- and micro-evolution, or have tried to make sense of it personally, since last class.
• Students should EXPLORE macro-and micro-evolution through shared experiences • Think-Pair-Share:
• [10–15 min] • Display image(s) on the screen of common homologous structures and different species of beetles
• Ask the students to take out a sheet of paper and have them use these images as evidence for either macro- or micro-evolution. Give them 1–2 min to work alone on this.
• Afterwards, have them work in groups to share their ideas through discussion and to modify their own ideas on their paper if needed. (Ask them to write the names of each group member on their paper, but to turn in a paper individually).
• EXPLAIN the scientific evidence for macro- and micro-evolution • After small group discussion, ask for volunteers to share their ideas with the whole class. Are there opposing viewpoints? Similarities?
• [50 min] • Give a 10-min lecture on macro- and micro-evolution identifying common misconceptions and showing the scientific evidence for both.
• Students should be able to ELABORATE on the topic through readings and other resources • Over the weekend, ask the students to watch the following clip about evolution from Carl Sagan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl89HIJ6HDo. How does this fit with their idea of macro- and micro-evolution? What do they make of the source of this information? Turn in on Monday.
• [3–4 min] • Ask the students to also find and report on examples of macro- and micro-evolution NOT discussed in class (turn in on Monday).
• Students should EVALUATE their ability to be metacognitive about the topic • After the EXPLAIN phase, ask students to revisit their answers to the Explore questions and make any modifications they feel are necessary.
• [3–4 min] • This assessment will assist me (along with their previous responses in their emails) on what to address in subsequent classes.
  1. [70–79 min total to span over two class periods]

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Sickel, A.J., Witzig, S.B., Vanmali, B.H. et al. The Nature of Discourse throughout 5E Lessons in a Large Enrolment College Biology Course. Res Sci Educ 43, 637–665 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-012-9281-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-012-9281-6

Keywords

  • College
  • Biology
  • Discourse
  • 5E model