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Looking for the Forest and the Trees : Exercises to Provoke Abstract Thinking

    Author: Boriana Marintcheva1
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, MA 02325
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 06 May 2013
    • Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biological Sciences, Connant Science Building – Room 390, Bridgewater State University, 131 Summer Street, Bridgewater, MA 02325. Phone: 508-531-1729. Fax: 508-531-1785. E-mail: Boriana.Marintcheva@bridgew.edu.
    • ©2013 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2013 vol. 14 no. 1 127-128. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.535
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    Abstract:

    It is probably hard to find an educator who would hesitate to agree that abstract thinking and comfort in asking questions are pivotal to scientific inquiry and advancement of knowledge. Yet, most of the time the mechanics of fostering these skills is as challenging as photographing dense fog. As biologists we constantly reevaluate what we know, how we think about what we know, and how we communicate our knowledge about the living world. These short engaging exercises challenge students to appreciate the central role of abstract thinking and question asking in scientific inquiry. In the first exercise the classroom is presented with an optical illusion image and challenged to evaluate it using concrete and abstract thinking tools. In a follow up exercise, students are prompted to evaluate the process of making assumptions, asking questions and coming to conclusions using the example of a small popular culture article. Both exercises are used as primers to stimulate discussion emphasizing that abstract thinking and question asking are critical tools in the tool set of 21st century budding biologists.

Key Concept Ranking

Golgi Apparatus
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Cellular Processes
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References & Citations

1. Buechs K 26 July 2009, posting date Hat tricks. Boston Globe magazine. http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/07/26/hat_tricks/.
2. Fernández-Suárez M, Ting AY 2008 Fluorescent probes for super-resolution imaging in living cells Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 9 929 943 10.1038/nrm2531 19002208 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nrm2531
3. Moerner WE 2007 New directions in single-molecule imaging and analysis PNAS 104 12596 12602 10.1073/pnas.0610081104 17664434 http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0610081104
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.535
2013-05-06
2017-09-20

Abstract:

It is probably hard to find an educator who would hesitate to agree that abstract thinking and comfort in asking questions are pivotal to scientific inquiry and advancement of knowledge. Yet, most of the time the mechanics of fostering these skills is as challenging as photographing dense fog. As biologists we constantly reevaluate what we know, how we think about what we know, and how we communicate our knowledge about the living world. These short engaging exercises challenge students to appreciate the central role of abstract thinking and question asking in scientific inquiry. In the first exercise the classroom is presented with an optical illusion image and challenged to evaluate it using concrete and abstract thinking tools. In a follow up exercise, students are prompted to evaluate the process of making assumptions, asking questions and coming to conclusions using the example of a small popular culture article. Both exercises are used as primers to stimulate discussion emphasizing that abstract thinking and question asking are critical tools in the tool set of 21st century budding biologists.

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FIGURE 1

A sample slide used to introduce the “From Hidden Faces to Abstract Thinking” exercise. The displayed slide is projected on the classroom screen and students are asked to describe what they are seeing and then to identify the hidden faces. Hidden faces are marked with asterisks for the reader’s convenience. The original optical illusion picture can be downloaded from: http://www.moillusions.com/2009/02/mystery-of-bouquet-illusion.html.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2013 vol. 14 no. 1 127-128. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.535
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