Reviewed by Jean Worsley
Retired Biology Teacher
This fourth edition of the Biology Teacher’s Handbook is a concise reference book of teaching and learning strategies developed by the Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS). This thorough handbook provides information about the quality of biology education from various perspectives. It covers the realm—from the development of a biology curriculum to the evaluative process. This invaluable guide for teachers seeks to improve 21st century biology teaching and is highly recommended.
First and foremost, it's recommended that biology teachers make an assessment of their philosophy, knowledge of content, goals, and objectives prior to structuring an educational plan. Numerous techniques for teaching/learning concepts in biology are presented in five sections: A Context for Good Teaching, Invitations to Inquiry, The Role of Controversy in Biology Education, Creating a Culture of Inquiry in Your Biology Classroom, and BSCS and Biology Education. Each section begins with a brief descriptive introduction.
In the first section, the fundamental principles of how students learn are coupled with effective techniques for structuring a biology curriculum. Facilitators are challenged to construct a curriculum around six unifying concepts that will ensure a well-rounded program. The constructivist theory of learning is the underlying philosophy for the development of the BSCS 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) instructional model. Further, the role of equity in the teaching/learning process is addressed. Charts and diagrams are included to guide teachers through an inquiry-oriented environment.
In section two, the nature and value of inquiry as a major tool in biology teaching are explored. Six "Invitations to Inquiry" are demonstrated with detailed guidelines, tables, explanations, and a sample rubric. Also, a format for a full inquiry experience is described, which reinforces the scientific method.
In section three, facilitators are introduced to strategies that will help ensure an effective dialogue about controversial issues in biology. Five controversial topics are explored: evolution, human reproduction, environmental issues, the use of animals in the classroom, and recombinant DNA and the Human Genome Project. Areas of controversy with corresponding biology topics and National Science Education Standards for grades nine through twelve are outlined.
The culmination of the inquiry approach in the classroom coalesces in section four. A thorough model presents detailed suggestions for classroom management from veteran teachers, strategies for collaborative learning activities, ideas for organizing and using student notebooks, techniques for improving literary skills, and several types of assessment. The history and implementation of the BSCS 5E model are clearly delineated. Further, a process for analyzing inquiry-based instructional materials is illustrated.
In the last section, the historical perspective of BSCS and its influence on biology education are described. In addition, BSCS’s perspective on contemporary biology education is presented in a format that explains the approach and philosophy of biology education in a global educational environment. Resources and references are listed at the end of each section to aid facilitators in additional research. Appendixes include National Science Education Standards for 9–12 Life Science, a list of common solutions for the high school biology laboratory, and safety issues for the biology classroom. A detailed index is included.
Review posted on 5/14/2009