Goals of the Pollination Biology Investigation
Build student skills in:
- reading peer-reviewed scientific papers, including
- diagramming papers,
- designing experiments,
- analyzing and interpreting data,
- critically evaluating results, and
- proposing follow-up experiments.
This exercise is based on:
- Finelli et al. (2008) Collaborative Learning – a jigsaw, in Pathways to Scientific Teaching, eds. Ebert-May, D. and Hodder, J. Ecological Society of America, Sinauer Associates. Sunderland MA. 212 p.
- Hoskins et al. (2007) Selective use of the primary literature transforms the classroom into a virtual laboratory. Genetics (176) pp. 1381-1389.
The assignment highlighted on the assignment page was developed as a reading guide for students that have moderate skill in reading scientific articles or for instructors that can’t afford the time required to use the CREATE approach outlined below. If you are interested in helping your students read primary literature, we highly recommend the CREATE approach. If your students need a little help with experimental design, check out the Ecology of Fear module, which attempts to help students construct their own experiments in animal behavior.
The CREATE Approach – Hoskins et al. (2007)
In this approach, students are immersed in a series of papers that show the evolution of research from a research group. They are given sections of the paper in order, without the title, abstract, discussion or authors’ names until they fully analyze the methods and results. The goal is to “develop each student’s ability to think like a scientist in terms of designing experiments, analyzing and interpreting data, and critically evaluating results as well as proposed follow-up experiments.”
Below is a summary of the major steps of the CREATE approach, please consult the original article for details and clarifications. Papers have not been parsed for you in this module, as there are so many RMBL pollination biology papers to choose from!
Step 1) Consider
- introduce students to concept mapping,
- students read introduction section,
- students generate concept map of introduction – defining key terms and creating appropriate linkages between them.
Why: student-generated concept maps highlight the range of issues in the study and alerts students to concepts they may need to review before continuing with the article.
How: The consider step is done in class and can be done in small groups.
Step 2) Read
Students read methods and results sections for each figure or table, then diagram each experiment in a cartoon format that illustrates methods used (see the Ecology of Fear case studies for examples), annotate figures with clarifying labels (noting controls vs experiments), and write their own descriptive titles for each cartoon and figure.
Why: by instructing students to go through the Results section figure by figure and determine how results were obtained, students think more deeply about the data before reading the Interpretations section.
How: the read step could be done as homework or in-class work.
Step 3) Elucidate the Hypothesis
- students identify individual experiments and define specific hypotheses tested or questions addressed,
- student-generated hypotheses or questions are written above the figure or table to which they apply.
Why: students learn to dissect the “anatomy” of a research study.
How: the elucidate step could be done as homework or in-class work.
Step 4) Analyze and Interpret the Data
- Students analyze each figure using CREATE analysis templates (supplemental Figure S1 at http://www.genetics.org/supplemental/) followed by class discussion of the students analyses,
- students analyze each figure and table,
- compare control and experimental panels they identified during the read step,
- relate results to questions asked,
- begin to draw conclusions (are the data convincing? are there unanswered questions?),
- analysis is followed by active whole-class discussion focused on data analysis – each figure is thoroughly discussed,
- after the discussion, students record their overall impressions and construct a bulleted list of potential discussion points before they read the Discussion section of the paper.
- after reading the Discussion, students construct a similar list from the authors’ conclusions and construct a summary concept map from the entire paper.
Why: The analyze and interpret step forces students to consider the data and experimental design in great detail and highlights the role of interpretation in science.
How: templates are filled out as homework, discussion occurs during class, the bulleted list can be written during class or as homework, but before students read the Discussion section of the paper. Student read the Discussion section and generate the second list of points and a summary concept map as homework.
Step 5) Think of the Next Experiment
- Students are asked to imagine that they are the author of the article just analyzed. What outstanding questions remain? Which experiments should be done next to address those questions?
- students diagram two proposed experiments using cartoons,
- proposed experiments are discussed in class,
- before discussion, the class collaboratively agrees upon evaluation criteria,
- students assemble in 3-4 person “grant panels” and select one experiment to “fund”.
Why: The next step allows encourages creative and critical thinking about the process of science and models the scientific review process.
How: Students diagram proposed experiments as homework and the panel review is conducted during class.
Step 6) Repeat with the Next Paper
If the next paper is follows from the first paper, students have the added interest of finding out whether the research group pursued any of the students’ proposed follow-up experiments.
Why: The repeat step shows students they are learning to think like scientists and shows that scientific research can follow many paths. This challenges a common misconception that science is predictable and that scientists know what their results will be before performing experiments.
How: Students proceed more rapidly through the CREATE process after the first paper is analyzed.