Nearly every Biology 3191 class includes small-group discussions, during which students discuss and annotate figures from the assigned scientific articles. The instructors typically use the following structure to set up the group discussions:
Divide the class into groups of 4-6 students and assign to each group one of the article’s figures or one of the conclusions drawn by the authors.
Display on the SMART Board 2-3 questions that every group should answer (e.g. “What is shown in this figure?” and “How does this figure support the authors’ thesis?”) During the small-group discussions, the students use tablet PCs to add annotations to the relevant figures. The students “think out-loud” as they explain the research–first to one another and then to the entire class.
After a designated time has elapsed (typically 10-12 minutes), ask one or more of the group members to present each group’s answers and annotations to the class. The students display their annotations to the class via a wireless network that allows the instructor to connect each individual student’s tablet PCs to the classroom data projector, then select the Tablet PC of each group’s “spokesperson” while that student is explaining the annotations to the class.
Ask students follow-up questions and integrate their insights into larger class discussion of the research article.
Example of a figure annotated during group work.
Figure reprinted from Tabuse, Y., Izumi, Y, Piano, F, Kemphues, K. J., Miwa, J., and Ohno, H. (1998). Atypical protein kinase C cooperates with PAR-3 to establish embryonic polarity in Caenorhabditis elegans. Development 125, 3607-3614. Reproduced with permission.