PERSONOFICATIONAND STORY-MAKING AS A PEDAGOGICAL APPROACH TOWARD ENHANCING COGNITIVE ACTIVITY IN LEARNING COMPLEX SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS
One of the most difficult aspects of teaching a subject comprehensively is getting the students through the process of a higher cognitive activity, beyond memorization of basic relevant facts. A basic working vocabulary and knowledge of a set of facts are essential for a student to truly understand and communicate the details of his or her chosen profession. However, according to Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy, memorization represents the lowest level of learning and does not produce a long-lasting knowledge. To solidify learned material in students’ minds, higher levels of cognitive involvement are necessary. More complex levels of cognitive activity include application, analysis, and synthesis. Working with studying material on these levels builds a strong foundation for a long-lasting knowledge.
The study of the biological sciences presents challenges not only in the quantities of terms to memorize, but – more importantly – in the amount of complex concepts and processes to understand. Many biological processes can be intimidating, boring,and discouraging to students. Here we are offering one idea on how to engage students into studying course material on a higher cognitive level. The process of «story-making» based on a course curriculum requires synthesis of learned material and its creative application. Importantly, this pedagogical approach injects a positive emotional energy into learning process making it more enjoyable for students. Making a story that describes a complex concept forces students to learn propertiesof its individual components and dynamics of their interpersonal relationships so that these agents and processes can be personified in a story. Below we offer a story entitled «A Tale about a Hidden Antigen» composed by students in an undergraduate level immunology class. The story describes the processes of innate and adaptive immunity during a bacterial infection. Each chapter in the story is preceded with our comments as to which immunological processes are covered.
Although the development of «A Tale of a Hidden Antigen» took place in the study of immunology, we believe that a project of this type would well serve students in a number of different and varied areas of study.
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