The Human Body: Educational Approaches and Standards

Educational approaches: This curriculum uses as a main instructional method inquiry- and problem-based approaches to study how the body works, and to explore the implications of social and behavioral factors that affect health. The problem-based approach uses inquiry as a central element (Barell, 2010; Savery & Duffy, 2001). Inquiry and problem solving tap into higher cognitive faculties and promote analysis, evaluation, synthesis, and application of knowledge. All these characteristics are those of problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and responsible citizens prepared to face current societal problems. Students living in the 21st century need to be ready for more global and complex challenges, and their education should prepare them for it (Barell, 2010).

One interesting element of this approach is the idea that the “cognitive conflict” posed by a real-world problem can generate curiosity and spike the attention of the learner. This is desirable, since active interest will in turn promote the learner’s willingness to invest time and energy in finding the solution to the problem. The current health problems that society is facing should be of interest to the students because they relate directly to their wellbeing, and that of their families and friends. In addition, the problem-based approach calls for group work and interaction with the students’ surroundings (Savery & Duffy, 2001). In order to construct knowledge, people need to interact with other learners to receive feedback, and to draw knowledge form external sources. The activities in this curriculum depend heavily on group interactions; on students being able to interact and negotiate with their peers as well as with the teacher and community. The active investigation, conceptualization, synthesis, and delivery of knowledge in this curriculum will help students to construct knowledge and to acquire social skills.

The design of this curriculum is also informed by concepts like core knowledge. In order for students to find the solution to a problem, they need to know background content knowledge. The proponents of the core knowledge vision of pedagogy assert that if all students are subject to a common curriculum, they will find it easier to relate to each other and to society (Hirsch, 1996; Ravitch, 1981). Finding and presenting the solution to a problem is easier and more credible to others when it is based on evidence, and this evidence is clearly shown.

 

Standards: This curriculum responds to the high school life sciences standards in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) adopted by a number of states around the country (The National Research Council, The National Science Teachers Association, Achieve, & The American Association for the Advancement of Sc, 2014). There are five key concepts for high school: (1) Structure and Function, (2) Inheritance and Variation of Traits, (3) Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems, (4) Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems, and (5) Natural Selection and Evolution. Among the NGSS key concepts that this curriculum alludes to is the relationship between structure and function (1); specifically, “How do the structures of organisms enable life’s functions?” This curriculum’s recurring theme is how structure dictates function, and how function can be disrupted by external influences. Thus, through the learning activities and the problem-based inquiry projects, students will demonstrate understanding of how systems of cells function together as physiological systems, and collaborate to support the whole body’s life processes.

Another NGSS topic that this curriculum addresses is the interdependent relationships in ecosystems (4). This curriculum proposes to inquire into how some of these relationships can cause health problems. The specific question is, “How do organisms interact with the living and non-living environment to obtain matter and energy?” Since the curriculum calls for an exploration of elements in the environment that affect the human body, this standard will be covered in depth. In a more indirect manner, the key idea of inheritance and variation of traits (2) will be covered in that some diseases only become apparent if there is a genetic predisposition and the environment is permissive. The analysis of statistics and case studies may take this key concept into consideration, depending on the focus the students and teacher choose for the project. The topic of matter and energy in organisms and ecosystems (3) refers to the question: “How do organisms obtain and use energy they need to live and grow?” This curriculum will explore some of the most important elements that a human being needs to live; for example, how we obtain oxygen and nutrients, and what limits are necessary to keep healthy.