Sunteți pe pagina 1din 14

A Better Way to Teach Biology

Author(s): Anton E. Lawson


Source: The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 50, No. 5 (May, 1988), pp. 266-278
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the National Association of Biology Teachers
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4448733 .
Accessed: 15/09/2013 07:42

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

University of California Press and National Association of Biology Teachers are collaborating with JSTOR to
digitize, preserve and extend access to The American Biology Teacher.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
A Betnter Wa y to
* Anton E. Lawson is a professor in the departmentof Zoology at
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1501,where he has
taught since 1977. He received a B.S. in zoology from the Univer-
T of Arizona,
~~~~~sity a M.A. in biology from the University of Oregon
and a Ph.D. in biology education from the University of Okla-
homa. He also studied at the Oregon Institute of MarineBiology.
From 1984to 1986Lawson directeda National ScienceFoundation
funded projectto develop a high school biology curriculumbased
upon the learning cycle method of instruction. He is directing a
NSF projectto help teachersin the Phoenixarealearnhow to teach
AntonE. Lawson using that curriculum.

Research to improve biology teaching during the This paper's primarypurpose is to attempt to sub-
past two decades has been dominated by two major stantiate that claim through explicationand extention
theories. The first, Ausubel's theory of verbal of a model of teaching known as the learning cycle
learning, has focused attention on ways students ac- (cf., Atkin & Karplus 1962; Karplus, Lawson,
quire domain of specific biology concepts (e.g., Au- Wollman, Appel, Bernoff, Howe, Rusch & Sullivan
subel 1963; Ausubel, Novak & Hanesian 1978; Au- 1976;Lawson & Renner 1975). The learning cycle, as
subel 1979; Novak 1977; Novak 1979; Novak 1980; orginally conceived, is too limited to serve as a gen-
Harty, Hamrick & Samuel 1985; Lehman, Carter & eral guide to teaching practicewhich has as primary
Kahle 1985). The second theory, Piaget's develop- aims both the teaching of domain specific biology
mental theory, has focused attention on ways stu- concepts and the development of general scientific
dents acquire and use general scientific reasoning reasoning skills. Nevertheless, it is proposed that ex-
patterns (e.g., Flavell 1963; Inhelder & Piaget 1958; tention of the originallearning cycle model into three
Karplus 1977; Piaget 1964; Piaget 1972; Lawson & types of learning cycles can form the basis of a theo-
Renner 1975;Lawson 1985). retically satisfactory and educationally practical
In retrospect, separating research into these two model of instruction to accomplish these aims.
traditions seems natural. They represent the best of
available theory divided into the two major domains Misconceptions and Reasoning Patterns:
of knowledge recognized by cognitive scientists, i.e., A Possible Link
declarative knowledge, the specific facts and con- What, if any, relationship exists between specific
cepts that we know; and proceduralknowledge, the conceptions and general reasoning patterns?The an-
general skills that we know how to perform (cf., An- cient Greek philosopher Parmenedes stated that "the
derson 1980). senses deceive us." Personal experience provides the
Each research tradition has its strengths and has basis for knowledge that is at times inaccurate(e.g.,
contributedsubstantiallyto a better understandingof optical illusions, Piagetian nonconversation re-
the learner and the learning process. However, due sponses). Leading naturalists of the past advocated
to the partialview of the learner, or at least different ideas such as spontaneous generation, special cre-
areas of emphasis afforded by each, neither tradition ation and the inheritance of acquired characteristics.
taken alone represents a satisfactory framework to These conceptions (i.e., misconceptions from the
guide instruction. viewpoint of modern science) have their roots in per-
Over the past few years a new research tradition sonal experience. Maggots appear to be spontane-
has emerged that owes its existence in part to Au- ously generated from rotting flesh; people create ob-
subel's theory and in part to Piaget's. That research jects, so living objects are also created by "people"
tradition, which focuses on students' alternativecon- (with special God-like properties);children look like
ceptions or "misconceptions" (e.g., Arnaudin & their parents, so changes in the appearance of the
Mintzes 1985; Brumby 1984; Driver 1981; Clement parent will cause a change in the appearance of an
1986; Posner, Strike, Hewson & Gertzog 1982; An- as-yet-to-be-bornchild.
derson & Smith 1986; Halloun & Hestenes 1985; The rejection of these ideas during the past re-
Marek 1986), provides an opportunity to synthesize quired the generation of alternative hypotheses and
the best of availabletheory into a view of the learning their testing through experimentation,data collection
process that leads directly to a theory of instruction. and considerable argumentation. Open-minded sci-
If this theory of instruction were implemented, it entists who became aware of these alternativeideas
would produce learners not only with adequate un- (e.g., evolution, natural selection, genetics) and the
derstanding of domain specific concepts, but with available evidence were able to follow the reasoning
truly general transferrablereasoning skills as well. used to argue the cases. They were generally con-

266 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, VOLUME 50, NO. 5, MAY 1988

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
vinced and were able to overcome prior "misconcep- Charles Darwin during the period from 1832 to 1838
tions" in favor of the more scientificallyaccuratecon- when he underwent a conceptual change from a cre-
ceptions. ationist perspective of the world (a misconception)to
By analogy, it can be hypothesized that the same that of an evolutionist (a currently valid scientific
thing can happen in the science classroom. For stu- conception). Fortunately for Gruber and for us,
dents to overcome prior misconceptions they must Darwin left a record of his thinking during this time
become aware of the scientific conceptions, as well as period in copious diaries. Figure 1 highlights the
their own alternative conception(s). They must also major changes in his thinking during this time.
become aware of the evidence and reasoning which In psychological terms, Figure la represents a state
bears on the validity of the alternative conceptions. of mental stability (i.e., equilibrium)as Darwin's cre-
In other words, they must be able to logically "see" ationist concepts are internally consistent and can be
how the evidence supports the scientific conceptions adequately used to "understand" nature. From the
and contradicts the misconception (cf., Posner, point of view of modem science, however, his ideas
Strike, Hewson & Gertzog 1982). represent a number of misconceptions.
Because reasoning patterns such as combinational Figure lb represents mental conflict (i.e., disequi-
reasoning, control of variables, probabilisticand cor- librium)because a logical contradictionis implied by
relationalreasoning are precisely those used to eval- realization that the physical world actually changes
uate alternativeconceptions in a logical hypothetico- while the organic world does not, yet the organic
deductive manner, students who have acquired world must somehow remain perfectly adapted to
these patterns would be expected to hold fewer mis- the changing physical world. Since this is clearly not
conceptions than those who lack them. possible without the organic world also changing
A recent study by Lawson and Thompson (1986) (which, of course, would contradict the initial cre-
found this to be precisely the case. On a test fol- ationist conception), the mental conflict exists. No-
lowing instruction on concepts of evolution and ge- tice that this state of conflict in Darwin's mind ex-
netics, a sample of seventh grade students who had isted for more than four years, in spite of the fact it
acquired these reasoning patterns revealed an could easily be resolved merely by imagining that the
average of 0.43 misconception per student while organic world also changes!
their classmates who had not acquiredthe reasoning That mental disequilibrium persisted for such a
patterns held 1.67 misconceptions per student. The long time in spite of the fact that the necessary modi-
conclusion is simply this: Students who have ac- fication in thinking is logically trivial, illustrates just
quired higher order reasoning patterns hold fewer how tenacious priormisconceptions can be. Figurelc
misconceptions because the reasoning patterns are represents the beginning of mental change with the
necessary to overcome prior misconceptions. realization that the organic world can cause changes
in the physical world. Figure ld finally recognizes
The Processof Conceptual that the organic world must also change in response
to changes in the physical wortd. Figure le repre-
Change- Equilibration sents the final conceptual change and restoration of
According to the previous discussion, we can con- equilibriumwith a more complex and accuratemodel
clude that teaching scientific concepts requiresmuch of organic and physical world interactions. It should
more than simply verbally introducing students to be noted, however, that the role of the Creatoris not
the terms which represent the concepts. Rather, stu- entirely clear. Therefore,it seems safe to assume that
dents must occasionally unlearn prior misconcep- Darwin's new plane of equilibrium,although able to
tions. Anderson and Smith (1986) refer to teaching incorporatemore experiential data, is not as concep-
procedures that attempt to induce students to dis- tually "stable" as his initial equilibrium.
card misconceptions in favor of scientifically valid In summary, the process of discarding misconcep-
conceptions as "conceptualchange teaching." As we tions and their replacements with more complex and
have seen, success depends in part on the reasoning valid alternatives appears to involve the process of
patterns of the students. mental "equilibration"as just described. According
Assuming that students are capable, how are mis- to psychological theory, higher order reasoning pat-
conceptions modified or discarded during the terns develop during this process of equilibration,
learning process? This is a difficult question to an- yet Darwin was most assuredly an accomplished
swer, primarily because the process takes place in- thinker at the outset. Further,Darwin most certainly
side students' heads and often at a subconscious was not engaged in this activity for the purpose of
level. Thus it is not only hidden from the researcher, developing his reasoning patterns. Rather, Darwin
but is sometimes hidden from the subject as well. was motivated by a desire to understand nature.
To get a handle on this problem, Howard Gruber Nevertheless, if we continue to accept the hy-
(Gruber & Barrett 1974) analyzed the thinking of pothesis that the process of equilibrationcan lead to

BEITERWAY 267

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
the development of higher order reasoning patterns, of the particulararguments in which they are em-
we must ask "How?"The answer I propose is simply bedded. A person skilled in argumentationis skilled
this. Adequate evaluation of evidence and argu- in reasoning. Therefore,if you want to help students
ments to support or refute alternativecausal hypoth- become better reasoners provoke them to argue and
eses (e.g., organisms were created by God; or- to reflect on the adequacies/inadequaciesof their ar-
ganisms evolved across time) requiresthe use of rea- guments (e.g., Lawson & Kral 1985).
soning patterns. Therefore,when one engages in this
enterprise, reasoning patterns are exercised (if al-
ready developed) or begin to "develop" (if not al- The Learning Cycle
ready available). The main thesis of this paper is that instruction
But how do they develop? Presumablythis occurs that allows students to examine the adequacy of
via a process of abstractionwhich implies a growing prior conceptions forces them to argue about and re-
awareness or consciousness of the form or pattern of flect on the reasons for those conceptions. This in
that which is abstracted. But in this case, what is it turn provides the opportunity to acquire more ap-
that is abstracted?The answer is, I believe, forms of propriateconcept and abstractthe reasoning patterns
argumentation. When people are engaged in ex- (forms of argumentation) from the arguments that
changes of contradictoryviewpoints, reasons and ev- arise when opposing conceptions come face to face.
idence are actively sought to resolve the contradic- The central instructional hypothesis is that correct
tion (i.e., arguments). This, of course, is the activity use of the learning cycle provides students the op-
of argumentation and it provides the raw material portunity to reveal prior conceptions to debate and
from which the forms of argumentation (i.e., pat- test them. This can result not only in the improve-
terns of reasoning) are abstractedfrom the contexts ment of students' conceptual knowledge, but in an

0 a. 1832 and before: The Creator (C) made an


organic world (0) and a physical world (P):
C I0 was perfectly adapted to P. Mental
equilibrium exists.

b. 1832-1834: The physical world undergoes


continuous change, governed by natural
forces as summarized in Lyell's Principles
of Geology. A logical contradiction is
I______ implied which induces a state of
P ON'P2 disequilibrium.

O c. 1835: Activities of organisms contribute to


changes in the physical world (e.g., coral
reefs). Disequilibrium persists.

P] D P2 d. 1836-1837: Changes in the physical world


imply changes in the organic world if
?1 02 adaptation is to be maintained; the direct
action of the physical environment "induces"
organic adaptations. Equilibrium is
8<Ipartially restored.
l2
P1 -- 2
e. 1838 and after: The physical and organic
01 02 worlds continously interact and induce
reciprocal changes to maintain adaptations.
C? _ j I.NY . . The role of the creator is unclear. He may
IV
/N~ \ j
1have set the system into existence yet
P, p2 stands outside. Mental equilibrium is
restored at a higher, more complex plane.

Figure 1. Charles Darwin's changing world view from 1832 to 1838 as an example of mental equilibration(after Gruber&
Barrett1974).

268 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, VOLUME 50, NO. 5, MAY 1988

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
increased awareness of and ability to use the rea- term. A person can have the pattern or the term but
soning patterns involved in the generation and test he does not have the concept until he has both.
of that conceptual knowledge. Teachers can introduce terms to students, but stu-
Although there are the three types of learning dents must recognize the pattern themselves. Explo-
cycles (not all equally effective at producing disequi- ration provides the opportunity for students to dis-
librium, argument and improved reasoning), they all cover the pattern. Term introduction allows the
follow the general three-phase sequence of explora- teacher to introduce the term that refers to the pat-
tion, term introduction and concept application. tern. It provides students an initial opportunity to
During exploration, students learn through their link the pattern with the term and thus acquire the
own actions and reactions in a new situation. In this concept. Finally, concept applicationallows students
phase they often explore a new phenomenon with repeated opportunities to recognize the pattern and/
minimal guidance. or to discover applicationsof the new concept in new
The new phenomenon should raise questions or contexts.
complexities they cannot resolve with their present
conceptions or accustomed patterns of reasoning. In
Three Types of LearningCycles
other words, it provides the opportunityfor students
to voice potentially conflicting and at least partially Learning cycles can be classified as one of three
inadequate ideas. This can spark debate and an anal- types-descriptive, empirical-inductive and hypo-
ysis of the reasons for their ideas. Explorationalso thetical-deductive. The essential difference among
leads to the identificationof a pattern of regularityin the three is the degree to which students either
the phenomenon explored, such as the bell-shaped gather data in a purely descriptive fashion (not
line which occurs on a graph when lengths of snail guided by explicit hypotheses they wish to test) or
shells are plotted against their frequency. initially set out to test hypotheses in a controlled
The second phase, term introduction, normally fashion.
starts with the introduction of a new term or terms, The three types of learning cycles represent three
such as normal distribution,used to label the pattern points along a continuum from descriptive to experi-
discovered during exploration. The term(s) may be mental science. They obviously place differing de-
introduced by the teacher, the textbook, a film, or mands on student initiative, knowledge and rea-
another medium. This step always follows explora- soning ability. In terms of student reasoning, de-
tion and relates directly to the pattern discovered scriptive learning cycles generally require only
during the exploration activity. Students should be descriptive patterns (e.g., seriation, classification,
encouraged to identify as much of a new pattern as conservation) while hypothetical-deductive learning
possible before it is revealed to the class, but ex- cycles demand use of higher-order patterns (e.g.,
pecting students to discover all of the complex pat- controlling variables, correlational reasoning, hy-
terns of modern science is unrealistic. pothetico-deductive reasoning). Empirical-inductive
In the last phase of the learning cycle, concept ap- learning cycles are intermediateand require descrip-
plication, students apply the new term and/or rea- tive reasoning patterns, but generally involve some
soning pattern to additional examples. After the in- higher-orderpatterns as well.
troduction of normal distribution, for instance, the In descriptive learning cycles students discover
students could plot a frequency distribution of the and describe an empirical pattern within a specific
height of their classmates, or the color of com kernals context (exploration). The teacher gives it a name
on an ear of Indian com and begin to wonder why (term introduction),and the patternis then identified
the normal curve occurs in some instances, but not in additional contexts (concept application). This
all. type of learning cycle is called descriptive because
The concept application phase is necessary for the students and teacher are merely describing what
some students to recognize the pattem and separate they observe without attempting to generate hypoth-
it from its concrete contexts and/or to generalize it to eses to explain their observations. Descriptive
other contexts. Thus, without a number and variety learning cycles answer the question "What?,"but do
of applications, the pattem may not be recognized, not raise the causal question "Why?"
or its generality may remain restrictedto the context In empirical-inductive learning cycles students
used during its definition. again discover and describe an empiricalpattern in a
Note that the last phase is referred to as concept specific context (exploration),but go furtherby gen-
application, while the previous phase was labeled erating possible causes of that pattern. This requires
term introduction. A concept is defined as a mental the use of analogicalreasoning to transferterms/con-
patten (i.e., a pattern in one's mind) that is accessed cepts learned in other contexts to this new context
by a verbal or written symbol (i.e., a term). There- (term introduction). The terms may be introducedby
fore, a concept is the recognized pattern plus the students, the teacher, or both. With the teacher's

BETTERWAY 269

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
guidance, the students then sift through the data 6.) The descriptive question is answered and the
gathered during the exploration phase to see if the causal question is raised.
hypothesized causes are consistent with those data 7.) Alternativehypotheses are advanced to answer
and other known phenomena (concept application). the causal question and the already gathered
In other words, observations are made in a descrip- data are examined for their initial test.
tive fashion, but this type of learning cycle goes fur- 8.) Term IntroductionPhase: terms are introduced
ther to generate and initially test a cause(s), hence that relate to the explored phenomenon and
the name empirical-inductive. most likely hypothesized explanation.
The third type of learning cycle, hypothetical-de- 9.) Concept Application Phase: additional phe-
ductive, is initiated with the statement of a causal nomena are discussed or explored that involve
question to which students are asked to generate the same concept(s).
possible answers (hypotheses). Student time is then 3. Hypothetical-deductivelearning cycles
devoted to deducing the logical consequences of 1.) The teacher identifies some concept to be
these hypotheses and explicitly designing and con- taught.
ducting experiments to test them (exploration).The 2.) The teacher identifies some phenomenon that
analysis of experimental results allows for some hy- involves the pattern upon which the concept is
potheses to be rejected, some to be retained and for based.
terms to be introduced (term introduction). Finally 3.) ExplorationPhase: the students explore a phe-
the relevant concepts and reasoning patterns that are
nomenon that raises the causal question or the
involved and discussed may be applied in other situ-
teacher raises the causal question.
ations at a later time (concept application). The ex- 4.) In a class discussion, hypotheses are advanced
plicit generation and test of hypotheses through a and students are told either to work in groups
comparison of logical deductions with empirical re- to deduce implicationsand design experiments
sults is required in this type of learning cycle, hence
or this step is done in class discussion.
the name "hypothetical-deductive."
5.) The students conduct the experiments.
The following steps are utilized in preparing and
6.) Term Introduction Phase: data are compared
using the three types of learning cycles:
and analyzed, terms are introduced and con-
1. Descriptive learning cycles clusions are drawn.
1.) The teacher identifies some empiricallyderived 7.) Concept Application Phase: additional phe-
concept to be taught. nomena are discussed or explored that involve
2.) The teacher identifies some phenomenon that the same concepts.
involves the pattern upon which the concept is
based. DescriptiveLearningCycles
3.) Exploration Phase: the students explore the
phenomenon and attempt to discover and de- It was stated earlierthat the three types of learning
scribe the pattern. cycles are not equally effective at generating disequi-
4.) Term Introduction Phase: the students report librium, argumentationand the use of reasoning pat-
the data they have gathered and they and/or terns to examine alternative conceptions/misconcep-
the teacher describe the pattern; the teacher tions. Descriptive learning cycles are essentially de-
then introduces a term to refer to the pattern. signed to have students observe a small part of the
5.) Concept Application Phase: additional phe- world, discover a pattern of regularity, name it and
nomena are discussed and/or explored that in- look for the pattern elsewhere. Littleor no disequilib-
volve the same concept. rium may result, as students will most likely have
few, if any, erroneous preconceptions. Graphing a
2. Empirical-inductivelearning cycles frequency distributionof the length of a sample from
1.) The teacher identifies some concept to be a species of sea shells will allow you to introduce the
taught. term "normal distribution" but will not provide
2.) The teacher identifies some phenomenon that much argumentation among your students. A de-
involves the pattern upon which the concept is scriptive learning cycle into skull structure/function
based. (see appendix) allows the teacher to introduce the
3.) ExplorationPhase: the teacher raises a descrip- terms herbivore, omnivore and carnivore. It also
tive and causal question. allows for some student argumentation as they put
4.) Students gather data to answer the descriptive forth and compare ideas about skull structure and
question. possible diets. Yet seldom are possible cause-effect
5.) Data to answer the descriptive question are relationships hotly debated, and hard evidence is not
displayed on the board. sought.

270 THEAMERICANBIOLOGYTEACHER,VOLUME50, NO. 5, MAY1988

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
LearningCycles
Empirical-Inductive deductive pattern of reasoning utilizing the isolation
and control of variables (see Figure 2).
On the other hand, consider the empirical-induc-
tive (EI) learning cycle called "What Caused the
Water to Rise?" described below (also see appendix)
Hypothetical-DeductiveLearningCycles
which involves the concept of air pressure. It, like Like EI learning cycles, hypothetical-deductive
other El learning cycles, requiresstudents to do more (HD) learning cycles require explanation of some
than describe a phenomenon. An explanation is re- phenomenon. This opens up- the possibility of the
quired. Explanationopens the door to a multitude of generation of alternativeconceptions/misconceptions
misconceptions-suction in this case. The resulting with the resulting argumentation,disequilibriumand
arguments hnd analysis of evidence represent a near analysis of data to resolve conflict. However, unlike
perfect example of how EI learning cycles can be El cycles, HD cycles call for the immediate and ex-
used to promote disequilibrium and the develop- plicit statement of alternativehypotheses to explain a
ment of conceptual knowledge and reasoning pat- phenomenon. In brief, a causal question is raised
terns. and students must explicitly generate alternativehy-
To start, students invert a cylinder over a candle potheses. These in turn must be tested through the
burning in a pan of water. They observe that the deduction of predicted consequences and experi-
flame soon goes out and water rises into the cylinder. mentation. This places a heavy burden on student
Two causal questions are posed. Why did the flame initiative and higher-orderreasoning ability.
go out? Why did the water rise? The typical explana- Consider, for example, the question of water rise
tion students generate is that the flame used up the in plants. Objects are attractedtoward the center of
oxygen in the cylinder and left a partial vacuum the earth by a force called gravity, yet water rises in
which "sucked" water in from below. This explana- tall trees to the uppermost leaves to allow photosyn-
tion reveals two misconceptions: thesis to take place. What causes the water to rise in
1) flames destroy matter and thus produce a par- spite of the downward gravitationalforce? The fol-
tial vacuum, and lowing alternative hypotheses (alternative concep-
2) water rises due to a nonexistant force called tions/misconceptions) were generated in a recent bi-
suction'. ology lab:
Testing of these ideas requires uqseof a hypothetico- a.) water evaporates from the leaves to create a

HYPOTHESES

If... the water rose


because oxygen was
burned up arnda
vacuu was creat-ed
which sucked the
wacewup c

and... we measure level of water rise


with one and four candles
/ other tU-igs
~~~~~~~~(all being equal)

4' EXPERM2wT therefore...

Whydid the then.. water should rise water rose nuch the hypothesis
water rise in the same in both more with ust be
the cylinder? cylinders because four candles [n.
r weIieed
the same amountof CEparison than with one, a new hypothesis.
QEJCrON oxygen is burned up.
ON
PREDIC~Ic n~TA/RBsul=O aNCrJSION

Figure2. The box on the left represents the key question raised. In this case it is "Why did the water rise?"The subsequent
hypotheses, experiments, predictions, results and conclusions follow the hypothetico-deductive if . . . and . . . then ...
therefore... patternof formalreasoning and requirestudents to isolate and controlindependent variablesin comparisonof
water rise with one and four candles. As shown, the initial hypothesis leads to a false prediction, thus must be rejected
(reasoning to a contradiction).Students must now generate an altemative hypothesis or hypotheses and start over again
until they have a hypothesis that is consistent with the data (i.e., not falsified).

BETTER WAY 271

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
vacuum which sucks water up, recognition that alternative hypotheses can exist, as
b.) roots squeeze to push water up through one- opposed to revealed truths, represents a crucialstep.
way valves in the stem tubes, Once the hypotheses have been generated, they
c.) capillaryaction of water pulls it up like water must be tested through prediction and data gath-
soaking up in a paper towel, and ering and analysis. The hypothesis of spontaneous
d.) osmosis pulls water up. generation leads to replication or discussion of the
Of course equipment limitations keep some ideas classic experiments of Spallanzani, Needham and
from being tested, but the "leaf evaporation" hy- Pasteur and to its ultimate rejection. The hypotheses
pothesis can be tested by comparing water rise in of special creation and evolution lead to consider-
plants with and without leaves. This requires the ation of the processes of geologic sedimentation,
reasoning patterns of the isolation and control of fossil formation and to the fossil record. Clearly the
variables. The "root squeeze" hypothesis can be predicted fossil records for the two hypotheses are
tested by comparing water rise in plants with and quite different, even contradictory,in some respects.
without roots; the "one-way valve" hypothesis can Special creation predicts a pattern of fossil remains
be tested by comparing water rise in right-side-up with no fossils in the deepest, oldest sedimentary
and upside-down stems. Results allow rejection of layers (before special creation) and all forms of
some of the hypotheses and not others. The sur- simple and complex life in the layer immediately fol-
vivors are considered "correct,"for the time being at lowing creation, with the remaining layers up to the
least, just as is the case in doing "real" science, surface showing fewer and fewer life forms as some
which of course is precisely what the students are become extinct. Evolution also predicts no life in the
doing. Following the experimentation,terms such as deepest, oldest layers (before evolution began), but
transpiration can be introduced and applied else- the next layers should contain very few and only the
where as is the case for all types of learning cycles simplest life forms (e.g., single-cell bacteria, blue-
(see appendix for more details on this learningcycle). green algae), with the progressively higher, younger
The water rise in plants question may involve mis- layers showing gradually more complex, larger and
conceptions, but few students would feel strongly more varied life forms.
committed to any one point of view as these are not Students thus have opposing hypotheses with dra-
likely to be tied to others which have strong intellec- matically different predictions. Which is correct?To
tual and/or emotional commitments. But consider the find out, the students simulate a hike in the Grand
case of evolution and special creation. Here commit- Canyon and observe fossils found in six sedimentary
ments often run deep, thus a hypothetical-deductive layers from the canyon walls. The fossils reveal a
learning cycle into the question "Wheredid present- pattern like that predicted by the evolution hy-
day life forms come from?" can stir up considerable pothesis and clearly unlike that predicted by the spe-
controversy, argumentationand reflective thought. cial creation hypothesis. Therefore, evidence and ar-
To teach the concept of evolution using a hypo- guments in favor of the evolution hypothesis have
thetical-deductive learning cycle once again we start been obtained. Subsequent activities allow the con-
with alternativehypotheses. At least three can be of- cept of evolution to be applied in other contexts.
fered: Most certainly one such activity would be a learning
cycle into the concept of natural selection.
a.) Present-day organisms were all created during
A look back at Figure2 will serve to summarizethe
a brief period of time by an act of special cre-
major differences among the three types of learning
ation (i.e., by God). Further, organisms were
cycles described. Descriptive learning cycles start
created by God in virtually the same forms as with explorations which tell us what happens under
we see today.
specific circumstancesin specific contexts. They rep-
b.) Present-day organisms have spontaneously
resent descriptive science. In the context of the
arisen from dead material throughout time.
candle burning experiment they allow us to answer
For example, dead, rotting meat will produce
questions such as "How high and how fast will the
fly larvae. Old rags in damp places will pro-
water rise under varying conditions?" But they stop
duce baby rats.
before the question "Whatcauses the water to rise?"
c.) Present-day organisms have gradually evolved
is raised. Empirical-inductivelearning cycles include
from very few simple organisms over vast pe-
the previous, but go further and call for causal hy-
riods of time.
potheses. Thus, they include both the question and
Students may generate other hypotheses but at least hypotheses box of Figure 2 and may go even further
these three should be mentioned. to include some or all of the subsequent boxes. Hy-
Notice that an interesting thing has happened. pothetical-deductive learning cyrclesgenerally start
What represents the revealed truth for some people, with a statement of the causal question and proceed
namely special creation, is treated not as truth but directly to hypotheses and their test, thus repre-
simply as one of three alternative hypotheses. The senting the classic view of experimentalscience.
272 THEAMERICANBIOLOGYTEACHER,VOLUME50, NO. 5, MAY1988

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Clearly there is some overlap among the three theory of biology instruction presented in this paper
types of learning cycles since they represent various are listed in Table I.
phases of the generally continuous and cyclic process Biology instruction is viewed as having two major
of doing science. As is the case with any classification goals:
system, some learning cycles will be difficult to clas- 1.) to help students develop skill in using the gen-
sify as they will have characteristics of more than one eral reasoning patterns involved in generating
type of learning cycle. Nevertheless, it is hoped that and testing hypotheses, and
the system will prove helpful in curriculum design 2.) to help them acquire a set of domain specific
and instruction. and scientificallyvalid conceptions.
For the sake of clarity, the major postulates of the The theory argues that the most appropriate way,
perhaps the only way, to accomplish both these ob-
jectives is to teach in a way that allows students to
Table 1. Postulates of a Theory of Instructionfor Concept
reveal their prior conceptions and test them in an at-
Acquisitionand Reasoning Development mosphere in which ideas are openly generated, de-
bated and tested, with the means of testing be-
1. Students often hold misconceptions, i.e., knowledge coming an explicit focus of classroom attention.
derived from extensive personal experiencethat is
incompatiblewith established scientifictheory.
2. Misconceptionsmay be deeply-rootedinstruction
resistantimpediments to the acquisitionof References
scientificallyvalid conceptions.
3. The overthrow of misconceptionsrequiresstudents to Anderson, J.R. (1980). CognitivePsychologyand Its Implica-
move through a phase in which a mismatch exists tions. San Francisco:W.H. Freemanand Co.
between the misconceptionand the scientific Anderson, C.W. & Smith, E.L. (1986).Teachingscience. In
V. Koehler (Ed.), TheEducator's Handbook: Per-
A Research
conception and provokes a "cognitive conflict"or state
of mental "disequilibrium." spective.New York:Longman.
4. The improvement of reasoning abilityarises from Arnaudin, M.W. & Mintzes, J.J. (1985). Students' alterna-
situations in which students are engaged in exchanges tive conceptions of the human circulatory system: A
of contradictoryconceptions where argumentsare cross-age study. ScienceEducation,69(5), 721-733.
advanced and evidence is sought to resolve the Atkin, J.M. & Karplus, R. (1962). Discovery or invention?
contradiction. ScienceTeacher,29(5), 45.
5. Argumentationprovides experiences from which Ausubel, D.P. (1963). The Psychologyof MeaningfulVerbal
particularforms of argumentation(i.e., patterns of Learning.New York:Grune and Stratton.
reasoning) may be abstracted. Ausubel, D.P. (1979). Educationfor RationaleThinking:A
6. The learning cycle is a method of instructionwhich Critique.In A.E. Lawson (Ed.), ThePsychologyof Teaching
consists of three phases called exploration,term for Thinkingand Creativity,AETS 1980 Yearbook. Co-
introductionand concept application. lumbus: ERIC/SMEAC.
Ausubel, D.P., Novack, J.D. & Hanesian, H. (1978).Educa-
7. Use of the learning cycle provides the opportunityfor
tionalPsychology:A CognitiveView(2nd ed.). New York:
students to reveal prior conceptions/misconceptions Holt, Rinehartand Winston.
and the opportunityto argue and test them, and thus Brumby,M.N. (1984).Misconceptionsabout the concept of
become "disequilibrated"and develop more adequate naturalselection by medical biology students. ScienceEd-
conceptions and reasoning patterns. ucation,68(4), 493-503.
8. There are three types of learning cycles (descriptive, Clement, J. (1986).Misconceptionsin high school physics.
empirical-inductive,hypothetical-deductive)which are CognitiveProcessesResearchGroupNewsletter,1(2), 2-3.
not equally effective at producing disequilibriumand Driver, R. (1981).Pupils' alternativeframeworksin science.
improved reasoning. European Journalof ScienceEducation,3(1), 93-101.
9. The essential differenceamong the three types of Flavell, J.H. (1963). The DevelopmentalPsychologyof Jean
learning cycles is the degree to which students either Piaget.New York:D. Van Nostrand.
gather data in a purely descriptivefashion or initially Gruber, H.E. & Barrett,P.H. (1974). Darwzin on Man. New
set out to explicitlytest alternativeconceptions York:E.P. Dutton & Co.
(hypotheses). Halloun, I.A. & Hestenes, D. (1985).The initialknowledge
10. Descriptivelearning cycles are designed to have state of college physics students. TheAmericanJournalof
students observe a small part of the world, discover a Physics,53(11), 1043-1055.
pattern, name it and seek the pattem elsewhere. Harty, H., Hamrick, L. & Samuel, K.V. (1985). Relation-
Normally only descriptivereasoning pattems are ships between middle school students' science concept
requiredand little or no disequilibriumoccurs. structureinterrelatednesscompetence and selected cog-
11. Empirical-inductivelearning cycles requirestudents to nitive and affective tendencies. Journalof Researchin
describe andexplain a phenomenon and thus allow ScienceTeaching,22(2), 179-191.
for misconceptions, argumentation,disequilibrium Inhelder, B. & Piaget, J. (1958). The Growthof Logical
and the development of higher-orderreasoning ThinkingFromChildhoodto Adolescence.New York:Basic
patterns. Books.
12. Hypothetical-deductiveleaming cycles requirethe Karplus, R. (1977). Science teaching and the development
immediate and explicit statement of alternative of reasoning. Journalof Researchin ScienceTeaching,14(2),
conceptions/hypotheses to explain a phenomenon and 169-175.
requirehigher-orderreasoning patterns in the test of Karplus,R., Lawson, A.E., Wollman, W., Appel, M., Ber-
the alternatives.l noff, R., Howe, A., Rusch, J.J. & Sullivan, F. (1976).
BETTERWAY 273

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
ScienceTeachingand the Development of Reasoning:A Work- Marek, E. (1986). Understandings and misunderstandings
shop.Berkeley:Regents of the University of California. of biology concepts. TheAmericanBiologyTeacher,48(1),
Lawson, A.E. (1985). A review of research on formal rea- 37-40.
soning and science teaching. Journalof Researchin Science Novak, J.D. (1979). Applying psychology and philosophy
Teaching,22(7), 569-618. to the inprovement of laboratoryteaching. TheAmerican
Lawson, A.E. & Kral, E.A. (1985). Developing formal rea- BiologyTeacher,41(8), 466-470,474.
soning through the study of English. The Educational Novak, J.D. (1977).A Theoryof Education.Ithaca, NY: Cor-
Forum,49(2), 212-226. nell University Press.
Lawson, A.E. & Renner, J.W. (1975).Piagetiantheory and Novak, J.D. (1980). Leaming theory applied to the biology
biology teaching. The AmericanBiology Teacher,37(6), classroom. TheAmericanBiologyTeacher,42(5), 280-285.
336-343. Piaget, J. (1964).Cognitive development in children:Devel-
Lawson, A.E. & Thompson, L. (1986). Relationships among opment and learning. Journal of Researchin Science
biologicalmisconceptions,
reasoningability, mentalcapacity, Teaching,2(3), 176-186.
verbalI.Q. and cognitivestyle. Unpublished research re- Piaget, J. (1972). ThePsychologyof Intelligence,New Jersey:
port, Arizona State University. Littlefield,Adams & Co.
Lehman, J.D., Carter, C. & Kahle, J.B. (1985). Concept Posner, G.J., Strike,K.A., Hewson, P.W. & Gertzog,W.A.
mapping, vee mapping, and achievement: Results of a (1982). Accommodation of a scientific conception: To-
field study with blackhigh school students. Journalof Re- ward a theory of conceptual change. ScienceEducation,
searchin ScienceTeaching,22(7), 663-674. 66(2), 211-227.

Appendix
TEACHERMATERIAL
SKULLSTRUCTURE/FUNCTION
WHAT CAN BE LEARNEDFROM SKULLS? cient animals from only a very few fossil bones. Ask
Synopsis them for any examples of this sort of work that they
Students observe a variety of vertebrate skulls and at- may know of and what might be some of the clues pa-
tempt to identify the animal and what it eats. Through leontologists use to draw their inferences. Tell students
class discussion the relationships between skull character- that the lesson today will challenge them to draw infer-
istics and implied functions are explored and the terms ences about the life-style and habitatof a variety of ver-
herbivore, omnivore, carnivore, nocturnal, diurnal and tebrate skulls located throughout the room. Specific
niche are introduced. This is a descriptivelearning cycle. questions they should consider are: What type of food
Suggested Time does this animal eat (e.g. plants, animals, or both) and
Two class periods what evidence exists for that inference (e.g. number,
shape, size, location of teeth)? Is this animal active
BackgroundInformation during the day, night, both? What is the evidence (e.g.
Vertebrate skulls reveal adaptations for specific func- size, location of eye sockets)?Is the animal a predatoror
tions. Large eye sockets, for example, accommodatelarge prey? Why (e.g. eyes front for depth perception:pred-
eyes needed for nocturnal activity. Eye sockets located on ator, eyes to side for peripheralvision: prey)?Make sure
the sides of the head imply a similarpositioning of the eyes to raise the questions only during the introduction.Do
for the good peripheral vision needed by prey animals, not mention specific characteristicsand inferences such
whereas a more frontal location implies good depth per- as sharp teeth mean meat eater or eyes front means
ception needed by predatoryanimals. Teeth also reveal ad- predator. Let the students discover these on their own.
aptations. The teeth of herbivores are relativelyflat for the If they are not discovered, you may mention them later
grinding of plant materialwhile the teeth of carnivoresare during the concept introductiondiscussion.
more pointed and sharp for the grasping and tearing of
flesh.
The purpose of this learning cycle is to provide students TermIntroduction
with an opportunity to observe skull characteristicsand at- 3. After students have gathered data on each skull, have
tempt to infer facts about the animal'sfood sourceand hab- them describe the differences they observed. Start the
itat (i.e., place where it lives) and to improve their abilityto discussion by holding up skull 1. Ask for ideas and evi-
support or refute ideas through use of evidence and logical dence. Go on to skull 2, etc.
argumentation.It also provides you an opportunity to in- 4. As the discussion begins to center on teeth, put on the
troduce the concepts of herbivore,omnivore, carnivoreand board the words the students use to describe them
niche, where niche is defined as an organism's role or (tearing, crushing, grinding).
function within a biological community. 5. These teeth types will suggest function. Discuss this re-
lationship. At the appropriatetime introduce the terms
Teaching Tips herbivore, carnivore, omnivore and niche. Introduce
AdvancePreparation them by stating the definitions first. Then state the
1. Place a different skull at each of the 10 numbered sta- term. Forexample, say, "Thisanimalhas sharp teeth for
tions. tearingand no flat teeth for grinding. This implies that it
eats only animals. An animal that eats other animals is
Exploration called a cai6nivore.""An animal that eats only plants is
2. To introduce the lesson you may want to remind stu- called a herbivore,"etc.
dents of the work of paleontologists who are able to 6. Student attention to eye sockets will allow you to intro-
infer many things about the life style and habitatof an- duce the terms nocturnaland diurnal(e.g. "Thisanimal

274 THEAMERICANBIOLOGYTEACHER,VOLUME50, NO. 5, MAY1988

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
has large eye sockets which implies that it has large eyes BiologicalConcepts ThinkingSkills
for night vision. An animal that is active during the
nocturnal observation
night is called nocturnal."). herbivore isolation of variables
ConceptApplication carnivore inference
7. For concept application, provide opportunities for stu- omnivore seeking and stating evidence
dents to examine a variety of bones in addition to skulls niche
and make inferences from their structure about their diurnal
functions. For example, bird bones, fish bones, etc.

STUDENT MATERIAL
SKULLSTRUCTURE/FUNCTION
WHAT CAN BE LEARNEDFROM SKULLS? Procedure
Introduction 1. In your group go to a station and take about five
Do we need to see an entire animalto determinewhere it minutes to carefullyexamine the skull.
lives or what it eats? Sometimes we can use bones as clues 2. Observe the size and shape of the overall skull, as well
to provide insight into possible answers to these questions. as other characteristicsof the teeth, eye sockets, brain
Observation is a key to understanding. What can be in- case, etc. Record interesting observations on the data
ferredby looking at skulls? sheet. Make a sketch if you want.
3. Try to decide what kind of animal the skull came from,
Objectives what type of food it eats and where it might have lived.
1. To infer function and animal behavior from observation What characteristicsof this skull allow organismsof this
of skull characteristics. type to be successful? What evidence do you have for
2. To improve your abilityto support or refute hypotheses your guesses?
through use of evidence and logical argumentation. 4. Move to the next station when you are ready. (No more
Materials than two groups may work at one station simulta-
10 skulls of 10 differentspecies of vertebrates. neously.)

TEACHERMATERIAL
AIR PRESSURE
WHAT CAUSED THE WATERTO RISE? cylinder until the air pressure pushing on the surface of
Synopsis water inside is equal to that pushing on the water surface
Students invert a cylinderover a candle burning in a pan outside.
of water. They observe that the flame soon goes out and This investigation is a particularlygood way to introduce
water rises into the cylinder. They then attempt to explain students to science as a hypothesis generating and testing
their observations.Testing these explanationsleads to new enterprise. The hypotheses they invariablygenerate to an-
explanations and increased understanding of combustion, swer the questions can be experimentallyshown to be in-
air pressure and the nature of scientificinquiry. This is an adequate, and thereforemust be modified through the use
empirical-inductiveleaming cycle. of both creative and rational thought processes and data
gathering and analysis.
Suggested Time Students' initial misconceptions generally center around
Two class periods a theory which states that oxygen is "used up," creatinga
BackgroundInformation partialvacuum that "sucks" water into the cylinder. They
The primarypurpose of this learning cycle is to person- fail to realize that when oxygen is "burned" it combines
ally involve students in the use of science in an attempt to with carbon producing CO2 rather than being destroyed
answer two questions which arise from first-handobserva- (hence no partialvacuum can be createdin this way). They
tion. also fail to understand that a vacuum cannot "suck" any-
A burning candle is held upright in an pan of water thing. Rather, the force which causes the water to rise is a
using a small piece of day. Shortly after a cylinder is in- push from the relatively greater number of air molecules
verted over the candle and placed in the water, the candle hitting the water surface outside the cylinder.
flame goes out and water rises in the cylinder. These ob- The experiments and discussions provide you with an
servationsraise two majorquestions:Why did the flame go opportunity to attempt to modify these misconceptions by
out? Why did the water rise? introducing more satisfactory models of combustion and
The generally accepted answer to the first question is air pressure. More importantly, it allows you to introduce
that the flame "consumed"oxygen in the cylinderto a level science as an intellectuallystimulatingand challengingway
at which too little remained to sustain combustion, thus of trying to describe and explain nature.
causing the flame to die. The generallyaccepted answer to
the second question is that the flame heated the air in the
cylinder, causing it to expand and causing some to escape Teaching Tips
out the bottom. When the flame went out, the remaining
air cooled and contracted creating a partial vacuum. This Exploration
partial vacuum is then replaced by water rising into the 1. You may wish to initiate this lesson with a demonstra-

BETTERWAY 275

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
tion or simply let the students obtain the materialsand flame goes out while air cools).
get started on their own. TermIntroduction
2. If you decide to demonstratethe phenomena procedure, 6. After such data have been gathered, you should care-
steps 4 and 5 can be done during the class discussion. If fully repeat your explanation of the phenomena intro-
you let the students start on their own, you will prob- ducing the term "air pressure" and a molecularmodel
ably have to stop them after about 15 to 30 minutes for a of gases that assumes air to be composed of moving
discussion of their observations and ideas. particles that have weight and can bounce into objects
3. During the discussion, observationsand ideas should be (such as water) and push them out of the way. You may
listed on the board. The most obvious questions are: wish to discuss the common conception of "suction"in
Why did the flame go out? Why did the water rise?The this context. The molecular model implies that suction
most likely explanation to the second question is that (as a force that can suck up water) does not exist (i.e.,
since the oxygen was "burnedup" the water rose to re- the water is being pushed into the cylinder by moving
place the oxygen which was lost. particlesof air ratherthan being sucked by some nonex-
Lead the students to realize that this explanation (hy- istent force).
pothesis) predicts that varying the number of burning
candles will not affect the level of water rise. Four ConceptApplication
candles, for instance, would burn up the availableox- 7. To allow students to apply the molecularmodel of gases
ygen faster and go out sooner than one candle, but they and the concept of air pressure to new situations, pro-
would not bum up more oxygen. vide each group a piece of rubber tubing, a syringe, a
4. Have the students do this experiment and report re- beaker and a pan of water. Instruct them to invert the
sults. The results, of course, will show that the water beaker in the pan of water and fill it with water in that
level is affected by the number of candles (the more position with the mouth of the beakersubmerged. Hint:
candles, the higher the water level). Their hypothesis, Students will probablymake futile efforts to force water
therefore, has been contradicted. At this point you through the tube into the beakerbefore discoveringthat
should emphasize the need for an alternativeexplana- they must extractthe air through the tube.
tion and ask students to propose one. This may be an 8. As a homework assignment, challenge the students to
excellent time for the bell to ring since no one may have find a way to insert a peeled, hard boiled egg into a
a good alternativeand you can challenge them to think bottle with an opening that is smaller in diameter than
up a new explanation as their homework assignment. the egg. They must not touch the egg after it has been
5. If someone does propose the "correct"explanation(i.e., placed on the opening. Hint: After a small amount of
the heated air escaped out the bottom, etc.) do not im- water in the bottle has been heated, it is only necessary
mediately tell the class it is correct. Rather, treat it as to place the smaller end of the egg over the opening of
just another hypothesis to be tested. Ask students to try the bottle to form a seal. The egg will be forced into the
to think of a way to test the hypothesis. They should bottle by the greaterairpressure outside as the airinside
realize that the hypothesis leads to the prediction that cools.
bubbles should be seen escaping out the bottom of the 9. Unobserved by the students, place water in a ditto fluid
cylinder. (Note that it also leads to the prediction that can to a depth of about one centimeter and boil the
the number of candles will affect the level of water rise water vigorously. Then screw the cap on tightly to form
because more candles will heat more air, therefore, a seal. Place the can on your desk in full view of the
more will escape and in turn will be replaced by more students and allow them to witness the can being
water.) Have the students repeat the experimentto see crushed. Challenge the students to explain their obser-
if bubbles can be seen. If no one proposes the correct vations using the molecularmodel of gases and the con-
explanation, you will have to propose it yourself. But, cept of air pressure.
again, make sure that you do not give the students the ScientificConcepts ThinkingSkills
impression that this is the correctexplanation.Rather,it air pressure observation
is simply an idea you had that should be tested along molecularmodel of hypothesis testing
with any other ideas that are generated. The conclusion gases control of variables
that it is correctshould come only after data have been combustion analogicalreasoning
gathered which are consistent with its predictions(e.g., energy transfer identificationof variables
bubbles, more candles:higher water rise, water rise after hypothetico-deductivereasoning

STUDENT MATERIAL
AIR PRESSURE
Objectives
WHAT CAUSED THE WATER TO RISE? 1. To stimulate curiosityabout naturalphenomena.
Introduction 2. To become aware that science is an activitythat involves
Often things seem simpler at first glance than they really generating hypotheses and predictions to arrive-at ex-
are. Upon closer examination the complexity and mystery planations.
become more apparent. Discovering and solving these Materials
mysteries can be enjoyable and more satisfying than aluminum pie tins cylinders (open at one end)
looking for answers in books or asking people who claimto birthdaycandles jars (of various shapes, sizes)
know better than you. There is a way to search for your matches beakers and/or test tubes
own answers. It is called science and it can be fun. We are modeling clay syringes
going to do some now. rubbertubing

276 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, VOLUME 50, NO. 5, MAY 1988

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Procedure 4. What happened?
1. Select a partnerand obtain the materials. 5. What questions are raised?
2. Pour some water into the pan. Stand a candle in the pan 6. What possible reasons can you suggest for what hap-
using the clay for support. pened?
3. Light the candle and put a cylinder, jar or beaker over 7. Repeat your experiment in a variety of ways to see if
the candle so that it covers the candle and sits in the you obtain similar or different results. Do your results
water. support or contradictyour ideas in #6? Explain.

TEACHERMATERIAL
WATERTRANSPORT
TRANSPIRATION
WHAT CAUSES WATERTO RISE IN PLANTS? monly referredto as the cohesiontheory.
Synopsis Although the cohesion theory has gained wide accep-
Students design and conduct experiments to test hy- tance among plant physiologists, it leaves a few problems
potheses about causes of water rise in plants by removalof unresolved. The theory requires the maintenance of the
plant parts, by coating surfaces with petroleum jelly, etc. column of water in the xylem, yet breaks frequentlyoccur.
This is a hypothetical-deductivelearning cycle. How the theory can accommodate this contradictory
finding is not clear. Another puzzle is how the column of
Suggested Time water is established in the first place. Perhaps it "grows"
Two to three class periods there as the plant grows.
BackgroundInformation The fact that no single theory solves all the problems
The stems of vascular plants contain xylem vessels that should be viewed as a positive aspect of this lab. In a very
conduct water which rises up from the roots to the leaves real sense this lab allows students to move quickly to the
where it is used for photosynthesis and other vital cell pro- "cutting edge" of this area of research.
cesses. But what causes water to rise against the physical Expecta variety of hypotheses from your students at the
face of gravity? Apparently a number of factors are in- outset. For example, the following alternativehypotheses
volved. were generated by students in a previous class:
One force results from the osmotic movement of water a.) water evaporates from the leaves to create a vacuum
into root from the soil. This osmotic force, called rootpres- which sucks water up,
sure, is generated at the bottom of the xylem and tends to b.) roots squeeze to push water up through one-way
push water upward. Evidence of this root pressure comes valves in the stem tubes,
from cut stems which will "bleed"fluid for some time after c.) capillaryaction of water pulls it up like water soaking
the skins are cut. up into a paper towel, and
Root pressure is also presumablyresponsible for the oc- d.) osmosis pulls water up.
casional appearanceof drops of water on the tips of leaves Of course equipment limitations keep some ideas from
at the leaf vein endings when water loss due to evaporation being tested, but the "leaf evaporation"hypothesis can be
(called transpiration)is low and the soil contains a lot of tested by comparingwater rise in plants with and without
water. This "bleeding"is called guttation. leaves, requiring the reasoning patterns of the isolation
Root pressure alone, however, is not strong enough to and control of variables. The "root squeeze" hypothesis
account for the movement of water up a tall tree. Another can be tested by comparing water rise in plants with and
without roots; the "one-way valve" hypothesis can be
force or set of forces must be involved. One of these forces
tested by comparing water rise in right-side-up and up-
appearsto be the cohesion of water molecules. The polarity
of water molecules provides a very strong attractionamong side-down stems. Results allow rejectionof some of the hy-
water molecules, thus, a column of molecules will stick to- potheses but not others. The survivors are considered
"correct,"for the time being at least, just as is the case in
gether so that any "pull"on the top molecules will result in
the rise of the entire column. doing "real" science-which of course is precisely what
But what sort of a pull can exist at the top of the column? the students will be doing.
A number of popular textbooks suggest (even state) that
the transpirationof water from the leaves will cause a par- Teaching Tips
tial vacuum that can "suck" the water up like sucking a Exploration
milkshake through a straw. Clearly, however, this cannot 1. Start by posing the problem and calling for alternative
be the case because "suction"as a force is nonexistent. The hypotheses. These should be listed on the board fol-
force which moves the milkshake up the straw is a push lowed by a discussion of how students might try to test
frombelow due to greaterair pressure on the surfaceof the them. Point out that the strategythey should attempt to
milkshakeoutside the straw than on the surfaceinside the follow is to falsify hypotheses rather than attempt to
straw. A number of your students will most likely hold this "prove" them. For instance, the "one-way valve" hy-
"suction"misconception. pothesis predicts that water will rise in a right-side-up
What then provides the pull? The best guess at this point stem but not in an upside-down stem. If water rises
appears to involve osmosis and goes as follows: Transpira- equally well in both stems, the hypothesis must be false.
tion of water in leaf cells increases their concentrationof Tell students to test as many hypotheses as they can in
solutes and therefore increases osmotic "pull" of extracel- the time provided.
lular water into the cells such as that in nearby xylem 2. Advise students to cut stems under water, and keep the
tubes. Because the column of water sticks together (due to stem in water for a minute before performingother ma-
cohesive forces of water molecules) the osmotic pull at the nipulations. This prevents air bubble blockage of the
top will cause the entire column to rise. This theory is com- xylem.

BETTER WAY 277

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
TermIntroduction ConceptApplication
3. At an appropriatetime have students reporttheir exper- 4. As this concludes the set of learning cycles on plant
imental designs and results to the class. This can be physiology in our course, no specific activities have
done in a variety of ways. Select the way that best suits been included to allow the direct application of these
your needs and the amount of time available. One suc- specific biological concepts. However, the thinking
cessful approach is to have each group select a spokes- skills involved here will be applied in a number of the
person to present a brief oral report (e.g. three to five remaininglabs.
minutes) and allow questions to be asked at the conclu-
sion of each report. At the conclusion of all the reports
you can summarize the majorfindings and introduceor BiologicalConcepts ThinkingSkills
reintroduceterms such as osmosis, transpiration,cohe-
sion and xylem. Be prepared to deal with the notion of transpiration analyzing data
suction. You may wish not to tell students that there is xylem organizing and communicatingresults
no such thing as suction but have them try to imagine osmosis observation
what goes on at the molecular level when evaporation cohesion control of variables
occurs. Ask them to try to imagine how a molecule root pressure analogicalreasoning
escaping from the water surface could possibly pull guttation hypothesis testing
those left behind. hypothetico-deductivereasoning

STUDENT MATERIAL
TRANSPIRATION
WHAT CAUSES WATERTO RISE IN PLANTS? against the force of gravity which pulls things down. Do
Introduction you have any ideas?
If you place a plant such as a stalk of celery (with leaves) Objectives
in a beaker with colored water, you will soon notice that 1. To determine the cause or causes of water rise in plants.
the colored water somehow moves up through the celery 2. To identify some of the structuresthrough which water
stalk into the leaves. Observationssuch as this suggest that travels in plant stems.
the general pattern of water movement in plants is from
the roots, through the stem, to the leaves. But what causes Materials
the water to move upward? Clearly this movement is food coloring test tube rack
toluidine blue stain single edge razor blade
slides and coverslips a variety of plants and stems
compound microscope (e.g., celery, coleus, bean,
~
-Y R THE TAFT EDUCATIONALCENTER colored pencils or onion, sunflower, pyrocantha,
\ + 2t Workshops for Creative Teachers markers palo verde, orange, corn,
KY'1x ' Since 1977, The Taft EducationalCenterhas offered to public and petroleum jelly Impatiens)
,, independentschool teachersthekind of experiencethatinspiresexcel- test tubes
lence in teachingmethods,turningeducationaltheoryintopractice,and
addressingthe practicalproblemsof the classroom. The enthusiasm
generatedby the first institutesfor math and science educationhas grown annually.
Procedure
Duringthesummersof'84, '85,'86 &'87 theCenterserved1,600 teachersin63 different 1. List any hypotheses you and others in the lab may have
workshopsandissued 3,200 graduatecreditsthroughtheUniversityof Hartford.Since
1977 the program has generated 6,000 graduate credits, a testimony to the Taft
concerning the cause of the upward movement of water
Educational Center's reputationas a first rate institution. Over 3,800 teachers, through plants.
beginningandexperienced,haveparticipatedin theamually redesigned,ever- growing 2. Select one partner to work with. Use the materialspro-
varietyof workshops. For thepast threesummers60% of the participantshave come
from the public sector. vided to design experimentsto test these hypotheses. In
general you will have to place plants or plant parts into
Topics In Biology - two weeks
AP Biology: Classroom approach - one week
containers partially filled with colored water and wait
AP Biology: Laboratory Approach - one week several minutes to observe the movement or lack of
movement of the colored water through the plant. Your
The Taft EducationalCenter plan of attack should be to try to disprove (or support)
110 WoodburyRoad each of the hypotheses advanced by comparing pre-
Watertown,Connecticut 06795 dicted results with actualresults. Use a table to summa-
Telephone:203-274-2516 rize your work for each experiment. The table should
include your hypotheses, a brief description of experi-
I am interestedin.
mental design, the predicted results, the actual results
O Advanced Placement Institute and your conclusions. Should you include some sort of
E Computer Education Institute
Cr Science and Mathematics Institute
control?If so, what and why?
o Modern Language Institute 3. Were you able to tell precisely where in the plant stem
o Humanities Institute the water was moving? If not, you may want to make
O Library Science Institute
O Middle School & Elementary School Institute some cross sections of stems that have had colored
o FormantTaft Center for Special Education water and/or stain passing through them. Perhaps the
(for learning disabled and dyslexics)
Please send furtherinformation: colored water will have stained the water conducting
portion of the stem that will be visible under the micro-
Name
scope in cross section.
Address 4. Be prepared to report your observations, experimental
Town State Zip
results and tentative conclusions to the class near the
end of the lab period.

278 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, VOLUME 50, NO. 5, MAY 1988

This content downloaded from 130.102.42.98 on Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:42:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions