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August 23, 2006

Informal, Low-Stakes Writing Assignment

CSCL 3458w, Section 2
The Body and the Politics of Representation
Tuesdays, 6:20-8:50 pm

Instructor: Thomas O. Haakenson
Three Possible Write-to-Learn Prompts

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August 18, 2006

Theater Management 5K - inclass prompt

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Phys3xxx_Initial_Ideas

Physics 3xxxW: Physics for Future Elementary School Teachers

Cycle 6, Activity 2: Children’s ideas about light and vision

Key question: What types of ideas do elementary school students have about light, and how might evidence impact children’s thinking?

Activity Purpose: In this activity, you will analyze two different videos involving 3rd and 4th grade students’ ideas about vision and reflection. The purpose of this activity is for you to get a sense of the types of pre-instructional ideas children have involving how we see things, and to think about how these ideas might evolve through classroom experimentation.

Initial Ideas (before viewing videos)

1. To begin a unit on light with her 3rd grade students, Ms. Jackson shows students a flashlight and asks them to draw pictures representing how they are able to see light. What initial ideas about how we see light do you think the 3rd grade students might express?


2. Early in Cycle 6 you conducted an experiment involving a mylar square and white paper sitting on the center of the table. You were asked to predict what each person standing around the table would see when the lights were turned off and a flashlight directed at the center of the table was turned on.

Imagine that 4th grade students conducted a similar experiment with only a mirror (not the white paper) in the center of the table. Imagine that they were asked to predict which of the four students standing around the table would see the light. What type of predictions do you think these students would make? Why do you think so?

Phar 4XXX/5XXX healthcare controversy class

We have just discussed the concept of health literacy and its potential impact on health outcomes. Take a few minutes now to write down any potential strategies that come quickly to your mind which could be used to improve health literacy. Choose an area of healthcare with which you feel most comfortable.

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August 17, 2006

Biol 3XXX low-stakes writing assignment

Write-to-learn prompts for Biol 3XXX

1. 5-minute paper: are the following statements correct? For each statement answer yes or no and explain why.
“Natural selection is survival of the fittest.?
“Natural selection is survival of the luckiest.?

At the end of the 5 minutes, discuss your answers in groups of 3 to 4 people for 5 minutes. I will then ask each group for their answers and explanations. The papers will not be collected.

2. 10-minute exercise. What results would you expect from today’s experiment? Sketch in your lab manual a graph of phenotype versus frequency for 1) before selection and 2) after selection and explain your predictions in a few sentences. The lab manual will not be collected, but these predictions will part of your next lab report. Recording your predictions now will be useful since you may not recall them clearly when you reach the stage to write up the entire lab. At the end of the 10 minutes I will ask some volunteers to share their predictions with the class.

PHSL3062w in-class exercise_find the hypothesis

Short (10’) in-class assignment. This assignment will take place in the context of a lecture on how to approach primary scientific literature (research reports). Students will be shown the introductory section of an original scientific study and asked to work in groups of 2-3 to answer the following questions. We will then spend ~10’ discussing their answers. (Although not graded, the answers will be collected at the end of class, as a means of taking attendance.)

1) What is the general subject that the scientists address in this paper?

2) What is the specific hypothesis that is being tested?

3) Why should we care about this study? (It’s likely that your tax dollars are funding this research. Have the authors conveyed a sense of what this study should add to our knowledge of physiology and why this is important knowledge?)


PHSL3062w in-class exercise_women's brains

Short (10’) in-class assignment. This assignment will take place in the context of a lecture on experimental design and interpretation of data. Students will be presented with the following (projected onto screen at front of class) and asked to work in groups of 2-3 to answer the four questions. Students will be told to just jot down their thoughts; form is not important. We will then spend ~10’ discussing their answers. (Although not graded, the answers will be collected at the end of class, as a means of taking attendance.)

In the 19th century, scientists used measurements of brain size to support the contention that women are less intelligent than men. Chief among these scientists was the neuroanatomist Paul Broca, professor of clinical surgery at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris. Broca weighed the brains of patients at autopsy and found the following: the average weight of 292 male brains was 1325 gm, while the average weight of 140 female brains was 1144 grams (difference of 181 grams, or 14% of male brain weight). These data were used by Gustave LeBon, a contemporary of Broca, to conclude that:

In the most intelligent races, as among the Parisians, there are a large number of women whose brains are closer in size to those of gorillas than to the most developed male brains. This inferiority is so obvious that no one can contest it for a moment; only its degree is worth discussion. All psychologists who have studied the intelligence of women, as well as poets and novelists, recognize today that they represent the most inferior forms of human evolution and that they are closer to children and savages than to an adult, civilized man. They excel in fickleness, inconstancy, absence of thought and logic, and incapacity to reason. Without doubt there exist some distinguished women, very superior to the average man, but they are as exceptional as the birth of any monstrosity, as, for example, as a gorilla with two heads; consequently, we may neglect them entirely.
(quoted in The Panda’s Thumb, by Stephen Jay Gould)

1. What is your response to LeBon’s conclusion?

2. Assuming that Broca’s measurements were accurate, is LeBon’s conclusion supported by the data?

3. What assumptions were made by LeBon in interpreting the data?

4. Can you think of factors other than intelligence that might be correlated with brain size?


Informal, in-class writing assignments for HSCI 3XXX

HSCI 3XXX/5XXX
Ecology and the Environment
Write-to-learn Prompts:

(1) This comes at the beginning of a lecture on the birth of ecosystems ecology. It is the last lecture in the second third of the course. Students have done readings…

What is an ecosystem? (This question goes with a Power Point slide showing many different levels of biological organization.) I ask students to write for a couple of minutes and then I have them pair and share for a couple of minutes before eliciting answers, which I write up on the board to refer to throughout the lecture.


(2) This question comes at the beginning of the first class of the third section of the course. I start this class playing the closing scene from Dr. Strangelove where the bombs are being dropped to “We’ll Meet Again.? While the scene is playing, I ask students to answer the question:

What factors may have contributed to the rapid expansion of ecosystems ecology after WWII? (This is sort of a set up to elicit the “obvious? response – environmental concerns. But the answer is much more complex, and this sets up the lecture on the factors that allowed ecosystems ecology to become a full-fledged “Big Science? in the 1950s and 1960s.)

Both of these writing assignments will help students in thinking through their final papers as well as, hopefully, giving them some personal investment in the lecture content.