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Preparing for an Academic Conversation, Day 1: Analyzing a Scientific Document

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Videos

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Discipline

In this two-part video, students in Hillary Mills' eleventh-grade biology class at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in New York City prepare for a bio-ethical debate about TALEN gene therapy. On day one, they analyze a complex scientific figure. On day two, they make connections among concepts and technical vocabulary, using a science notebook to organize their thinking, in preparation for their bio-ethical debate.


Type

Videos

Grade Level

Discipline

In this two-part video, students in Hillary Mills' eleventh-grade biology class at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in New York City prepare for a bio-ethical debate about TALEN gene therapy. On day one, they analyze a complex scientific figure. On day two, they make connections among concepts and technical vocabulary, using a science notebook to organize their thinking, in preparation for their bio-ethical debate.


Transcript

- Folks who were here yesterday know that we’re working towards the culmination of this case study and you guys asked for some information yesterday.

- [Narrator] Hillary Mills’ 11th Grade biology students are at a powerful junction in the learning process.

- We’re at the point where we are wrapping up our case study, an investigation into the use of this TALEN Gene Therapy, which is a particular gene editing technique that’s being used to combat Duchenne’s Disease.

- [Narrator] At a moment when many teachers might decide to conclude the learning with a summit of assessment, Hillary’s class decides to push themselves more deeply into the content.

- They’ve invested a significant amount of time in terms of learning a variety of science content. They’re swimming in all of the science that they know and they’re trying to figure out a way to piece it together. So what we’re gonna do at this point is we are going to be able to have a bio-ethical debate or an academic conversation that talks about the use of TALEN Gene Therapy as a means to combat Duchenne’s.

- [Narrator] We captured the class for two days, expecting to see how students prepare for and hold an academic conversation on the complex topic of TALEN Gene Therapy. On the second day, however, Hillary decides to postpone the conversation, choosing instead to support her students in deepening their understanding of the topic. In this two-part video, we look first at how the class uses a complex scientific figure to activate and push thinking. In the second video, we explore how students make connections among concepts and technical vocabulary and use scientific notebooks to organize their thinking for the upcoming conversation.

- So I found this really awesome science journal article that was produced by a group of scientists who have actually done some of these clinical studies using TALEN Gene Therapy. And they produced a figure that I think’s gonna be interesting to us. To match sort of where their level of science is, I went to the figures and the data tables and found this particular figure that was a demonstration of what happens when this gene therapy is used.

- [Narrator] By selecting a highly technical figure, one that referenced and activated familiar content and vocabulary, but remained puzzling in explicit meaning, Hillary set her students up to grapple with their conceptual understanding of TALEN Gene Therapy.

- My students access documents across the board, in math classes, global history, English. When analyzing documents, it’s almost never about what is right or wrong, but how you’re making sense of what they’re looking out.

- So we go into a document and we’ll look for everything we know and we’ll try to piece it together and I think we’re so good at that because we’ve done it so often.

- So a document that could be slightly intimidating, really overwhelming, something that they’ve never seen before, any student can enter that with basic observations that they see and inferences that they could make based on the observations that they’re making. We have four minutes. Get your questions answered. Build on each other’s ideas. We’re trying to figure out how this TALEN Gene Therapy works. So when scientists look at any type of document, they don’t do this in isolation. So there’s an element of needing to talk through or collaborate with other scientists which is exactly what we try and mimic in our science classroom.

- So what I was wondering was that are they shifting it out of frame and so the stop is no longer there?

- So basically after they go back into the amino acid, the basically readjust the reading frame.

- I’ll start, cause I have a question. When it it was down at the bottom underneath section B, when it was transcribing the original DNA, I was wondering if this is literally what it looks like when they’re doing TALEN Gene Therapy.

- You see where it’s like an N, and then it’s like parenthesis and there’s an X underneath it? Does that mean you’re taking out that base pair?

- So when we invest a lot of time looking a common document that we all have access to, one of the essential parts is giving the students space to talk about it and to come to some kind of collaborative understanding based on every person who’s entering that conversation. I heard some sweet conversations. A couple things just I wanted to celebrate. I saw saw someone go back to their notes on transcription, I saw someone else bust out their MRNA amino acid chart. Did you figure anything out?

- The first line of translated DNA could’ve been Duchenne’s Disease and the second line could’ve been Becker...

- There’s a big emphasis on talking like scientists in our classroom. This is something that is developed over a long period of time and is something that is continually honored and practiced. Taryne, you had a quick thought before we build on this.

- We think that N stands for the stop that the TALEN Gene Therapy is inserting into the genetic code because...

- [Hillary] There is an expectation that when you share out whether it’s with your small table or the whole class, that you’re speaking in full sentences. Those full sentences help to use the vocabulary and contextualize whatever students are saying.

- So we were talking about frame shifting. We were talking about a totally different reading of the MRNA during transition.

- And how does that happen? Katherine, can you add on a little bit? Thanks, Pertica.

- You add in a base pair. I think we’re great at talking about science because our teacher does a great job at emphasizing it.

- And what to we meaning by reading? I’m just pushing us a little bit cause it’s gonna help set us up.

- When it codes for a specific amino acid and when you... She asks us to be more specific if we’re not using the knowledge we’ve gotten well enough. Or she’ll tell us to respond in full sentences. So we really get our entire thought out there.

- I think that the expectation has to be there that kids can be scientists. And more than anything in order for that to happen is there has to be space for their voice. There has to be space for them to make understanding out of whatever it is that they are having access to. As a scientist, they have the responsibility to make sense of the world around them. You need to come prepared tomorrow. You guys know that academic conversations and scientific debates are only fun when people are prepared, right? Resources are here, Hex coding you know how to do, you did a lot of good practicing out of today. Use any resources form today. Any questions, send them my way.

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