Silent Debate: Bioethics for the Biotechnologist (Part I)
Lesson 4 of 11
Objective: Students will be able to communicate ideas, methods, and processes critical to the biotechnology workplace using appropriate written language and terminology in order to respond to a biomedical dilemma, engage in scientific debate and compose a evidence-based reflection.
This lesson is certainly a spin on the extremely effective Silent Debate strategy featured by other instructors on BetterLessons. By infusing new student moves into this collaborative learning structure, students are able to extend their own thoughts and ideas as well as rehearse and develop their arguments while they encounter views and perspectives that they may not have considered.
The Silent Debate is the perfect vehicle for an introductory lesson in Bioethics in which students consider why people may hold different views on the same issue and how this may affect their work in biotechnology. This lesson structure is also an effective way of engaging students who prefer to fade into the background during class discussions and the "silent" nature provides valuable quiet space for critical thinking.
I begin the lesson by asking my students the following question(s):
- How easy is it to consider the "values" of others?
- Should individual values be a consideration in the actions taken by members in the biomedical industry? Why or why not?
- If personal values should not be considered....what should be the basis of our evaluation of complex biomedical dilemmas?
NATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY STANDARD(S):
BT.7.2 Research ethical issues presented in biotechnology.
We begin our lesson by revisiting the “Test Your Knowledge of HIV/AIDS Quiz" on page one of our lesson guide. The quiz is completed by students as a bell-ringer or warmup activity once they have entered class! Before reviewing the quiz we have the opportunity to view and critique the (RED) HIV TARGET commercial, an ad campaign spearheaded by Bono and several of his celebrity friends. We discuss the power of knowledge as opposed to the far-reaching effects of misconceptions, myths, and an overall lack of awareness that still seems to plague our ability to come to grips with the devastation caused by HIV in parts of our world.
As we transition to Part A of our silent debate I read the following list of HIV myths aloud to my students and ask them have they ever heard these types of statements in regards to HIV.
1. “HIV/AIDS is a death sentence.”
2. “If I take birth control, I won’t get HIV.”
3. “I heard you can get HIV through kissing, from drinking out of the same cup as someone with HIV, or by sharing a plate with someone who has HIV.”
4. “Women who are HIV positive can’t — and shouldn’t — have babies.”
5. “You can have ‘full-blown AIDS.’”
6. “People who have HIV cannot have sex with people who do not have HIV.”
7. “It’s okay to have unprotected sex if you and your partner are both positive.”
8. “HIV was created to kill the gay/black/Latino/immigrant/injection-drug-using/etc. populations.”
9. “I can’t get HIV. It’s a gay/black/drug user’s/[insert community here] disease.”
10. “Straight women only get HIV because their men are on the down-low!”
11. “HIV/AIDS is a chronic manageable disease… just like diabetes!”
12. “HIV is a punishment from God!”
13. “I heard there’s a cure out there that’s being withheld.”
14. “HIV isn’t real.”
15. “You can use alternative medicines to treat HIV exclusively.”
In Part A of our Silent Debate, students are invited to explore and respond to the HIV Silent Debate Statement Cards distributed randomly to students. In this lesson we have decided to use common statements obtained from our list of misconceptions as well as quotes that were gathered from articles and books written about the spread of HIV in Africa. The catalyst for any Silent Debate can be terms, phrases, questions, images, newspaper headlines, cartoons, artifacts, or books. We have used virtually anything that represents a compelling bioethical dilemma or debate and elicits a powerful response. See the Obesity Silent Debate Statement Cards for another example!
Students are invited to respond to each other’s statement cards by following the directions below. They do so "silently", and are free to move around the room and respond to any of the items or using a inner/outer circle routine.
1. Pair up and read each statement in silence.
2. Nod “yes” for “I agree” with the statement OR “no", for “I disagree”. Please record the vote on the Post-It provided on the back of the clipboard.
3. At the appropriate time, create a new pair and continue until you have voted for each statement. View the following video clip to observe these student moves in action!
Note: If the cooperative routine of allowing students to freely rotate is something that they are developing the capacity to implement then an alternative is the use of a inner/outer circle as demonstrated in this brief video segment.
1. At the conclusion of the voting portion of the Silent Debate students are asked to count the number of "yes" and "no" votes. The instructor can determine if students will line up in order (see photo) according to the statements that have received the greatest to the least number of "yes" OR "no" votes.
2. Using magnetic tape, the Silent Debate statements are placed in order of greatest to least number of "yes" OR "no" votes on the student lockers outside of our laboratory classroom. Hopefully a curious student, teacher or administrator will stroll by and get an impromptu lesson on the truths and myths of HIV!
3. Students discuss the arrangement and sequence of the statements as well as answer reflection questions located on page two of the Silent Debate student lesson guide.
As we reflect on Part A of the Silent Debate my students pause and complete a 2-5 minute "Stop and Jot" addressing the following question:
Why, over thirty years into the crisis, are democratic governments performing so poorly in tackling AIDS in Africa?
During Part B of the Silent Debate, small groups of 2-3 students are invited to respond to an additional stimulus, photos or images of HIV in Africa in the form of portraits. They are invited to write down comments or questions in response to the photo and in response to each others comments. They do this "silently" and record their questions on a sheet of poster paper.
NOTE: If students struggle to produce rich, complex questions, direct instruction on the use of Costa's Levels of Questions as a writing strategy has been very effective with my students. This Guide to Costa's Level of Questioning can prove to be a helpful resource as well as the Costa's Level of Questioning overview included in the Silent Debate PowerPoint Presentation on Slides 17-25.
At the conclusion of Part B of the Silent Debate, students would have been presented with a great deal of information about HIV and AIDS as a global, national, and local epidemic. As an Exit Inquiry students complete the following self-reflective prompt:
“As I reflect on the state of HIV/AIDS in our city, nation, and world……”
“I wonder ___________________.
“I discovered ________________.
“I am concerned _____________.