The University of Waikato - Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
Faculty of Science and Engineering - Te Mātauranga Pūtaiao me te Pūkaha
Waikato Home Waikato Home > Science & Engineering > BioBlog
Staff + Student Login

August 1, 2013 Archives

 I won't post the photos here - but drop over to wired & admire the stunning spider images from photographer Nicky Bay. I think my favourite would have to be the Mirror Spider (Thwaitesia sp.), which looks as though it's got a disco ball for an abdomen.

And for awesome mimicry, take a look at the Ant Mimic Jumping Spider (Myrmarachne plataleoides). In fact, I liked this one so much I went looking for more & found this video of a related species:

Looks like an ant, right? But on close inspection there are some clues that all is not as it first appears: surely there are too many legs? And then the 'ant' starts to open & close its 'jaws' & suddenly you see its wickedly sharp fangs and then its pedipalps. How cool a disguise is this?

 

| | Comments (0)

That's the title of a post over on the Australian site, The Conversation (which I found by way of a piece on "Scientists, the media, & society" by Sir Peter Gluckman). The author of the piece, Ken Friedman, answers his question with an emphatic "yes, and here's why".

As he notes, 

The big question is what we expect citizens in a modern industrial democracy to know & to understand

- he's writing following the publication of a recent survey by the Australian Academy of Science that suggested that in some areas, Australians' science knowledge could be better. (And, I hasten to add, I suspect a similar survey would garner similar results in New Zealand.)

It caught my eye because I recently had a discussion around assessment: the context was on-line assessment and whether it mattered if students could check resources as they wrote. My feeling on this one was no, not if your assessment was intended to look at skills & higher-order thinking and not simple mastery of factual content. Those attributes - which specifically relate to science literacy - are surely ones that all uni graduates should come out with, after all.

I probably need to unpack that statement a bit! I agree that students do require some (lots of?) factual knowledge in a subject, and that their knowledge should increase in breadth & depth as they progress through their program of learning. But shouldn't they also be learning how to process that information? How to assess its validity? How to apply it in novel circumstances? After all, there's a huge body of information - which varies greatly in quality - out there on the internet (& in more traditional places such as libraries!) and freely available to anyone who knows how to use a search engine. And it's very clear, from following on-line discussions (on fluoridation, for example) - Facebook, science blogs, newspaper comments pages - that how people deal with that information is really important. 

So, provided that I'd given students plenty of opportunity to learn & practice the relevant skills in advance, I could see opportunities for on-line assessment where it wouldn't matter if students had books open, or webpages. Because the assessment item would provide information (in a structured way, & for a particular context) & students would be assessed, not on their knowledge, but on their ability to apply those higher-order thinking skills to the data set.**

But maybe I'm a tad too idealistic :) Feel free to drop by & let me know what you think!

** In the same way, after running the 'design-an-organism' classes for a couple of years now, I've seriously thought about asking just two questions in the final exam: 'design' a plant, and an animal, for a particular well-defined environment. Give plenty of background information, & let them go to it. The test would be in how well they could justify their various decisions. Hmmmm.

 

 

| | Comments (1)

August 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Recent Comments

  • Alison Campbell: a cat may look at a cephalopod! read more
  • herr doktor bimler: Poaching on PZ's territory! read more
  • Stephen: Snap or is that Schnapps! I'm reading The Drunken Botanist read more
  • Alison Campbell: Perhaps you should be promoting 'liquid oxygen' enemas for maximum read more
  • herr doktor bimler: Sorry, that was supposed to be a comment on the read more
  • herr doktor bimler: I see a potential market here in selling Charles Atlas read more
  • herr doktor bimler: drinking a couple of spoonfuls of 'liquid oxygen' isn't going read more
  • herr doktor bimler: Speaking of fermentation: http://eusa-riddled.blogspot.com/2013/08/smut-dont-drink-it.html read more
  • Alison Campbell: an army of post-docs looking for that place to settle read more
  • herr doktor bimler: Tunicates are inevitably compared to senior academics, because they reabsorb read more