Designing Effective Projects : Teaching Thinking
Example of Teaching Thinking in the Senior / FET Phase Classroom

Teaching Thinking to Senior Phase Learners
In the project, What’s in Your Genes?, that uses the Showing Evidence Tool*, high school learners use their knowledge of biotechnology applications to influence legislation for or against its usage. At various points in the project, there are opportunities for explicit teaching in the thinking skills learners will need to complete the project.

In the opening activity, learners discuss an Focus Question, Just because we can, should we? that raises ethical questions about medical science breakthroughs. Doing this requires the ability to predict the possible consequences of a medical treatment and to determine the ethical dimensions of those consequences.

Thinking Skills Mini-Lesson: Predicting Consequences

“An important skill is predicting the consequences of a particular scientific practice and thinking about the ethical implications of those consequences. You’re going to have to do this for your projects, so we’re going to start with suggestions about some ways to do this. “Let’s talk about the idea of cloning pets. People who have beloved pets can now pay a lot of money to have their cat or dog cloned. To think about the ethical implications of cloning pets, we can follow these thinking processes:"
1.  Why would this be a good thing? People can get very attached to their pets and are often devastated when they die. It would spare the people the heartbreak of losing a beloved pet and make them happy by letting them have the same pet virtually as long as the person lives and can afford to have it cloned.
2.  What doesn’t science know about this practice yet? We don’t know how long, in general, the pets will live. We don’t know what kinds of health problems cloned animals would have.
3.  What if the practice:
  • Was only affordable by the very rich?
  • Was easy and cheap and everyone could do it?
  • Was not regulated by the government or some other group?
People could just clone the animals they liked and then nobody would adopt kittens and puppies.
People could let their pets die (or even kill them) when it was convenient because they could have a duplicate made whenever they wanted.
4.  What are some things that people might not know about the topic? 

A cloned animal would not be exactly the same as the original one. It just has the same genes.

5.  What could cloning animals lead to? Cloning animals could be a step to cloning humans which most people believe is a really bad idea.
6.  Does it violate any fundamental ethical beliefs?  Some people think it’s wrong to artificially create life.

“Can anyone think of any other questions we could ask about a scientific breakthrough that would help us consider the ethical dimensions of a scientific breakthrough?"

“Now, I’d like you to work through these 5 steps with a partner on the subject of organ transplants.”

The teacher coaches learners as they work with the questions for 5-10 minutes. After they complete the activity, they have a discussion.

The teacher asks learners the following:
“Did you need to change any of the questions in order to make more sense of the organ transplant topic? What kinds of topics might require different kinds of questions? Would these same questions work with issues that were national rather than personal, like adding chemicals to water? How might you change the questions with different kinds of topics?”

Finish the lesson by asking learners to choose a topic for their project and use the questions to think about the ethical dimensions of the scientific breakthrough they select.  

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