This article is derived from my participation, as an invited speaker with a selected abstract at the “International Scientific Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) Meeting“, held in the Congress Palace in Florence in the summer of 2018. In this meeting I was a moderator in the session “Teaching Biology at different scales: challenges, opportunities and strategies“, about elements of didactic innovation in teaching neuro-biology: the history and evolution of experimental techniques.
Biologist Didactic – Researcher: High School Professor as “Principal Investigator”
It was very interesting to present my didactic neuro-biology STEM research conducted for high schools. I believe it is important to know innovative information about modern activities: how do they teach bio-science on different scales with new strategies in important universities of the world? The new idea in my didactic itinerary: to link the high school world with the university world.
To create a modern inspiring role also in high school, not only in the real science world: students can be involved in the science education community, in collaboration with the science center for an experimental co-operative project activity.
This involved the following elements of innovation:
The teacher does not only work as biology professor and didactic coordinator, but as Science STEM Professional – creator and responsible of project, moderator in seminars. The seminar was conducted to share the final phase of didactic itinerary with selected national and international academic collaborations as referees. The final product was a didactic itinerary, which included important suggestions for teaching and learning in multidisciplinary ways with a creativity and flexibility approach, analyzing also history and evolution of experimental techniques useful for bio-medicine.
The innovative STEM didactic itinerary was a part of large creative project that I have created and carried out to educate high school students to understand evolution of modern biology and to discuss the limitations, difficulties and new applications of bio-medicine. From historical biophysics elements to modern molecular biology techniques, guiding students in team work to understand scientific data in cellular biology. This project was aimed to enhance learning biological science in a cooperative and active way with elements of biochemistry, biophysics, human physiology in students: new didactic strategies to improve different skills also with historical elements.
While teaching modern science topics in high school, it is very important to link school research activities with the science world, learning innovative developments and limits of modern science techniques. It is very interesting to work with students not only as biology professor but also as “principal investigator”. This then mimics the real scientific method, a modern path with critical thinking and historical approach to understand the complexity of scientific problems.
Innovative experimental physiology technique in high school – Why?
This bio-science research activity was useful to promote different integrated skills, scientific and social learning in students with the following elements also involved:
- History of Science
- STEM Experimental Activities
- Communication with creative STEM strategies
Which reflections of the SEB+ meeting is interesting for high school and university?
The new role of a high school didactic teacher-researcher is to work with inquiry-based learning and teaching methods (IBSE) and to openthe classrooms to new ideas and to curiosity about science by creating a research group. The biology professor of high school that works as “Principal Investigator” in the same way as in the research world, and creating innovative laboratorial didactic activities, to guide students learning in a multidisciplinary way and acquiring new scientific knowledge peer to peer.
In the SEB international context was useful to become famailiar with modern university strategies to engage students in different multidisciplinary activities. Biology departments of important international universities are in fact involved in improving didactic strategies, also STEM strategies, for freshmen, supporting transition into university culture, for example Project Bioflex of UBC – British Columbia University. The different academic actions: to prepare for class in a flexible way, interactive classroom, solidifying knowledge by learning post-class and practice exams.
Very interesting is furthermore “iGEM competition (International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition) Project” of Exeter University in United Kingdom. iGEM is a multi-factorial program in which students can develop new skills. In 2017, it involved 310 teams with 44 referees in international competition that developed some aspects of different disciplines: biology, physics, computer science, mathematics, engineering and social sciences interpersonal skills for active and committed global citizens. An undergraduate led students working in small groups to propose an innovative scientific research project, designed using synthetic biology, solving real world issues with an international final prize. In this project, Human Practices are very important, in fact iGEM teams consider also if the projects are responsible and are good for the environment: ethical and social responsibility, safety and legal requirements, engagement with stakeholders.
Other interesting reflections regarding several different aspects of biology teaching and learning at the SEB conference were for example: the problem of teaching and learning biology in large classes, new strategies to improve interest and to involve university students with digital interactive approaches. This was summarized in a presentation of a project elaborated by Reading University in United Kingdom.
- Marina Minoli, “Teaching strategies: Educate to Systems Biology in High School”, New Secondary Magazine – Studium Editor, Rome, 9/2018
- SEB International Meeting 7/2018, Florence Congress Palace – Masters of Biology, SEB+ Acts, The International Society for Experimental Biology
Author: Marina Minoli*
*International Science Didactics Expert, ONB Biologist – Tenured High School Biology Professor, CSci Teach MRSB Royal Society of Biology