Intro. and Philo.

You have chosen to continue your study of biology. In this regard understanding biology requires a student to be able to explain the following statement from Leigh Van Valen “Evolution is the control of development by ecology.” This statement can be visualized as seen below.

evo dev eco

To understand biology a student must have a reasonable understanding of each of these three subjects within biology and how they influence each other. The performance expectations of this class, as can be viewed in PowerSchool, have been created by the NGSS and will be used to both guide and assess your learning.

From an instructional perspective, it requires the student to understand the instructional strategies used throughout the course. These strategies are selected to attain four goals:

  1. Develop their four ‘C’s: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication.
  2. Expect students to participate in the ‘practices of science’.
  3. Attain mastery of the performance expectations of the NGSS.
  4. Develop a proficient understanding and application of the statement “Evolution is the control of development by ecology”.


Author Simon Sinek explains that inspiration begins with ‘WHY’ not ‘HOW’ or ‘WHAT’. He developed the concept of the ‘Golden Circle’ you might be interested in viewing at Similarly, if we [students, parents, teachers] expect learning to occur, inspiration needs to be discovered and used to advance our passion to learn the subject.

‘Whys’ are BIG ideas and the learner’s first task is to identify their individual ‘why’ within the biological sphere. Students can argue they don’t have a science ‘why’. In response to this I suggest the students find a passion within the subject matter or change their course of study! [Yes, I know you have credit requirements but this does not preclude that SOMETHING in biology is very interesting to you.]

Our first class activities will focus our attention on increasing your awareness of subtopics and issues within the field of biology.


Learners in general biology will be required to use the ‘practices of science’ to direct their learning and assessment. Science is a verb, and it is messy! Students often think of science as a linear sequence of steps – often called the scientific method – that leads to new knowledge. Science is often the opposite. A jumbled, multidirectional, confused pathway of discovery using observation, background reading, tinkering, designing, building, collecting, analyzing and reflecting. Contrast the two pictures below. The left side is the typical view of science and the right is a more accurate flow chart of how science actually happens. Any student who has completed a Capstone project should basically understand this.


Once a student has identified why they want to study biology, they need to utilize the practices of science to guide their learning to meet the performance expectations within powerschool. Each performance expectation statement is worded using an action verb – what the student needs to be able to do. These practices include the verbs: construct, plan, develop, design, evaluate, apply, question, create, revise and communicate.  A few examples follow:

  • Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
  • Ask questions to clarify relationships about the role of DNA and chromosomes in coding the instructions for characteristic traits passed from parents to offspring.
  • Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem

Note: The first performance expectation is related to evolution, the second to development and the third to ecology.


‘What’ refers to the specific content as it relates to your ‘Why’. As an example, if you are inspired and passionate to learn about bird flu [Why] then you will most likely investigate the genetic information of the bird flu and how changes in the genetic content influence its pathology [What]. The process of learning using the practices of science [How] enables the learner to meet the performance expectation [see second bullet above]. I hope its obvious that asking questions about how the bird flu works on a genetic level, its RNA, and their inheritance in new viral particles would meet the performance expectation of ‘Ask questions to clarify relationships about the role of DNA and chromosomes in coding the instructions for characteristic traits passed from parents to offspring‘ and other performance expectations. [You might be inclined to ask is RNA the equivalent of DNA? Does it meet the requirement? I suggest you gather evidence and defend your own opinion and try to convince me!]

I believe that any significant biological topic/issue you are passionate to learn about can be learned by using the practices of science and supply opportunities to meet 100% of the 24 performance expectations as listed in PowerSchool. [I will not claim it is easy!]

Accountability, Assessment and Evaluation

Learners in General Biology will communicate how and what they are doing each class by blogging. Each blog should demonstrate attempts to use the practices of science to meet the performance expectations. I suspect the blog will become the default science journal/notebook. It should contain a description of what the student did during class, evaluate/reflect on their effectiveness and plan next steps. Summative, grade influencing, assignments that students submit to demonstrate meeting any of the 24 performance expectations will be assessed using the rubric – see this page.

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