Reflection: Student Ownership Modeling Translation - Section 5: Putting It All Together: Creating an Analogy that Means Something To Them

 

It is very important to help students make sense of difficult cell processes and be able to explain those cell processes in a way that will help students understand their interrelatedness. Many high school students still struggle with understanding the cell as an unit of function, even though they grasp that cells are units of structure. In fact, when focusing on the organization at the cellular and molecular levels, many student erroneously believe that cells fall solely in the realm of biological sciences, while molecules only exist in the realm of physical sciences. They downplay the overlap between the two sciences because of their naive thinking. Students also have limited awareness of the large role that proteins play in the cell. This especially true when one considers that most genetic phenomena are moderated by proteins.  

To help students with sensemaking, I first start with some careful planning. I use misconception/prior knowledge probes to identify my students' understanding on certain concepts. Many of these formative probes I write myself. However, I also use Uncovering Student Ideas, Page Keeley's website, as a resource and a template for writing good probes.  

After determining what my students know, I next look at the content with which their peers struggle. I use frequently use publications from AAAS Project 2061 for this strategy. They have several invaluable resources that explore the goals for adult science literacy and also the learning progressions of students at multiple stages in their development. Science for All Americans is outline the essential understanding needed by a scientifically literate public. Another resource I use is Project 2061 Benchmarks for Science Literacy which picks up where Science for All American concluded. Both of these publications outline common misconceptions held by adult learners. By using these publications and the NGSS as a benchmark of minimum guidelines for mastery, I can determine what is important for my students to know and what is a nice extension of basic knowledge.  

Next, I consider where my students have been and where they are going.  I first look at what they learned in middle school and how they may have learned the content.  Then I look at what are my students' future goals in determining the depth and breadth we will explore.  

Once I determine what we are to learn, I set some learning targets and consider the sequence in which these should be taught. I refer back to what they learned in previous classes. I look for methods to logically build my students' understanding. I consider the connections that need to be made within not only the lesson, but also the unit and the entire course. Finally, since I teach all of the science courses, I ponder what connections need to be made between the science disciplines so that students will be successful in future courses.  

Lastly, I determine how students will demonstrate their understanding of the scientific concept. I try to encourage students to make their explanations relevant and memorable to their own lives which is why students develop their own analogy to explain the three cell processes: DNA replication, RNA transcription, and protein synthesis.  

  Making Sense of Hard to Understand Concepts
  Student Ownership: Making Sense of Hard to Understand Concepts
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Modeling Translation

Unit 12: Molecular Genetics
Lesson 7 of 7

Objective: Students will explain the role of protein in living things and evaluate a model of translation to determine its accuracy.

Big Idea: What occurs if there is a mistake in your mRNA? How will it affect the protein that is made? Find out today.

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Subject(s):
RNA, Science, Molecular Genetics, translation (DNA), DNA, proteins, Developing and Using Models, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, structure and function
  51 minutes
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