Sunday, 22 November 2015

Year 7 & 8 Extension - Being more dialogic in class.

How to scaffold learning to extend higher order thinking?

Reflection with a couple of lessons as examples:

Year 7 & 8 Extension:

Their focus this term has been about Bioengineering, what it is and the ethical issues surrounding it. This can be quite a complicated subject to teach and learn about as Bioengineering is quite a new field. There isn’t really a definitive answer for its definition online. Students had to search for some sort of  definition online and then attempt to provide/explain their understanding of what it is. Some explained that it was about organ transplants e.g. heart, kidney, liver. Very few explained that it was a fusion of different disciplines e.g. Engineering and Biology. Discussion as a whole group was important to clarify understanding about its actual definition as accurately as possible as this varied online.

We also had to break down what is meant by the term ‘ethical’ and ‘unethical’ as students found this quite a hard concept to grasp, especially in terms of its relation to Bioengineering and the medical world. I gave basic examples of what is termed as ethical e.g. an act of doing something that is agreed upon by the majority and that is beneficial to the person or people affected. Basically it was about knowing the difference between right and wrong. Students agreed that it was ethical to give someone an organ transplant because it would save and prolong their life and that it was the right thing to do.

It was interesting to observe that students were quite strong in their opinion that a person who didn’t take care of themselves (e.g. a smoker) didn’t deserve to have a transplant if they weren’t prepared to change their ways. When we talked about ‘designer babies’ and whether parents should be given the right to ‘choose’ their perfect baby (via testing), most students were adamant that this was unethical and that parents should take what they get, even if the family had a history of disease or could prevent having an unhealthy child. Religious beliefs played a part in some of their thinking. Cloning was considered unethical and so was growing body parts in a lab using a person’s DNA. The students were divided about whether artificial organs (e.g. 3D printed) should be used.

When we displayed examples of bioengineering e.g. organ transplants, the use of prosthetics, cloning and designer babies etc on a table, we could then record our thinking under each heading. This made seeing the difference between what we thought were ‘ethical’ and ‘unethical’ uses or issues of Bioengineering a lot clearer. Students were reminded that the differences of opinion in class was similar to the differences of opinion in society. There were also social, political, educational and religious influences to consider. There was also a historical factor e.g. 100 years ago Bioengineering as we know it did not exist. It would have probably have been considered as witchcraft or black magic. Obviously the development of technology has played a huge part over time in the advancement of this new field.


  • Lots of discussion to share and clarify understanding was important
  • Students needed opportunities to share their opinions
  • Enough teacher knowledge was needed to facilitate discussion (Prior background research on this subject required).
  • Staying focused on our learning intentions was important and hopefully achieved
  • Scaffolding of knowledge was aided through prior research of topic (from students), discussion as a whole group, and by sharing and recording discussion/feedback.
  • Students could use any new knowledge gained to add to/change or improve their task/project based on this topic.