Book Review: Biology Inquiries

Biology Inquiries: Standards-Based Labs, Assessments, and Discussion Lessons by Martin Shields

Let me start by saying, I’m a chemistry teacher that also teaches a section of Biochemistry/Biotechnology.  Chemistry is where I am most comfortable, but I have been branching out with my new course (Reference my posts on chromosome materials).  I bought this book a while back because I am always interested in inquiry lab work, and thought there might be some interesting items.

Right out of the gate, Martin introduced me to mini-poster presentations (an idea he credits to Williamson), which I started to use in my classroom immediately.  He follows this with some general scientific inquiry labs and activities that are appropriate to any science classroom, though there is some emphasis on biological topics.  These ideas were quite valuable to me, though I have certainly seen similar ones elsewhere.

At this point, the value of the book for me comes from key activities in chapter 4: The Molecular Basis of Heredity.  Here Martin includes a couple of dry labs using Mendel’s genetics data, and Chargaff’s DNA analysis data.  In each case, he presents students with data gathered, and provides guiding questions to lead them through the data.  This is one of the ways I really like to teach science.  I truly enjoy leading students through the scientific processes that lead to the great discoveries.  It is powerful to watch them draw insights from data analysis.  They get a clear idea about how evidence supports or undermines models, and how new hypotheses must be generated to explain data, which in turn leads to further experiment.  Rather than simply tell students that purines pair with pyrimidines, it is so much more powerful to give them the tools to reach that conclusion based on evidence.

I have read through much of the rest of the book, and can see how many of the activities and labs would fit into Biology classes.  Indeed, I have lent the book to colleagues, and they have adopted some of the activities in their classrooms.  For me, though, the general ideas in the introduction, and the insightful activities in the Molecular Basis of Heredity section make the book well worth the price of admission.

The Good:

There are many solid inquiry labs and activities in the book.

The Bad:

Not much.  I think the book is solid.

The Ugly:

I wish there was a book like this more specific to material I regularly teach, because I really enjoy it, and feel an affinity toward it’s goals and style.

Check it out at Amazon:
Biology Inquiries: Standards-Based Labs, Assessments, and Discussion Lessons (Jossey-Bass Teacher)



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