Controversies in Genetics - Presentations and Panel Discussion

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SWBAT apply their knowledge of genetics and discuss the issues that arise from the application of modern biotechnology.

Big Idea

Difficult ethical issues can occur when using information obtained through modern biotechnology.

Note to Teachers

The students prepared for presentations and a panel discussion by following the "Controversies in Genetics" lesson. However, the same format may be used to hold a panel discussion on any subject or topic. The key to having this work is to give students ample time to study the discussion topic in depth.

I recommend inviting members of the community to participate as audience members during the panel discussion. This gives a sense of realism to the project and allows students an opportunity to highlight their accomplishments.

Presentation Day

90 minutes

The day before presentations, I create a Padlet wall. 

Padlet is an online collaboration tool that allows the user to create a virtual bulletin board. More information about how to use Padlet is available in the reflection Padlet - The Online Bulletin Board.

I explain that today we will listen to all presentations. There will be no questions or comments made aloud for any team, but that instead, all questions and comments will be written down on Padlet. The questions and comments made on Padlet will then be addressed during a panel discussion which will take place after presentations. I give students the Padlet URL for the discussion, and allow a couple of minutes for them to get the electronic device of their choice and navigate to the Padlet URL.

If your students have never used Padlet, I suggest a brief tutorial and opportunity to get all the "Hi" and "Johnny here" out of the way. This will cut down on the random posts aimed at getting attention from their classmates.  

I ask for a volunteer team to begin presentations. I access their audiovisual support from Edmodo, and begin. After the first team is done, I remind students to post to the Padlet wall, display it on the screen and give students a couple of minutes to post. In order to encourage students to write high quality questions (SP1 Ask questions that challenge the premise(s) of an argument or the interpretation of a data set). In this case about the topic being presented) or ideas (SP6 Constructing explanations and evaluating information), I often reward the students with a Patriot buck (school-wide incentive). 

We continue in this format until all presentations are done, and then give students an opportunity to post any final thoughts or areas they would like discussed in the panel. Click on this link -  questions for panel discussion if you would like to see all their questions compiled. I have this document handy during the panel discussion to help me moderate the panel.

As you can see in this video, we are still working on presentation skills (body language, eye contact, etc.). To make matters worse, on this particular day we had a group of teachers from another district visiting our program. However, I am glad to see that students were relying on their own notes during the presentations instead of attempting to read from the slides and giving their back to the audience, as they have been known to do that before. 

To close presentation day, I ask each team to decide which member will form part of the panel discussion. I remind students that even though they might not be chosen as panelists, as audience members they will be the ones posing questions and providing additional support to their panelists answers (this means they are the ones with the paper trail that leads to their panelists views).

Note to teachers: I actually try not to have all teams present in one day, saving one or two teams for a second day. This allows us to conclude the presentations with time "left over" in the class period. The students use this extra time to go over the items posted on the Padlet wall and prepare for the panel discussion. This is what the students had to say about that "extra time".

Students who are presenting are gaining experience in SP8 - Communicating findings clearly and persuasively, while the audience is engaged in examining their own understanding in light of evidence (SP7). Throughout the presentations students can explore causal relationships to predict phenomena in natural systems (CCC - Cause and Effect).

Panel Discussion

50 minutes

On Panel Discussion day, I move the tables to the sides of the room, and organize the seating so that there are no obstructions (or minimal) between the panel and the audience. As the moderator, I also print out of the Padlet wall we created during presentation day, which includes the questions and ideas posed by the class. 

Once the panelists and audience are seated, I introduce each of the panelists by displaying the highlight reel each team created in the preparation phase. This serves to introduce the point of view of each team to any community members that may be in the room, as well as a reminder for the class of where each of the teams stands on the organizing question, "How should federal funding for each of the genetics topics studied be allotted?" 

I pose the first question from the Padlet wall to the panel, allowing each panelist to answer individually using the information the group gathered and discussed. As each panelist answers, I open the floor for further discussion or questions and proceed as organically as possible, using the questions from the Padlet as well, as the avenues explored by the answers or comments made by the panelists or the audience. This format allows the students to defend their explanations (SP7) and engage in a formal scientific discussions with their peers (SP8).

Watch this video where I share some tips about conducting the panel discussion.

Project Reflection

Life-long learners reflect on their learning and how previous work can  be applied to future experiences.  Reflective learners stand back from what was done, analyze the experience to determine strengths and weaknesses and develop insights that go beyond a specific project or learning opportunity. With that in mind, and using the scheme that the students manage weekly in their blogs (see Enter the Blog), I have each student write a blog post where he/she reflects the project, giving examples of how their ideas changed or were confirmed by the research phase, presentation and panel discussion.

This reflection happens as soon as possible after presentation day so that ideas and thoughts about the experience are still fresh in the minds of students.