Ethnography Focused on the Communicative Practices in the Field of Biology

I conducted research uncovering the types of communication strategies and research practices performed in the teaching of biology science. The teaching of science can be very different from the teaching of other main subjects, such as history, English, and math. Science requires more hands-on and demonstration work in order to fully grasp the material being offered. Biology, the study of living organisms, uses various communicative practices to help its audience understand the subject. The field works better in a lab based environment, delivering information through text books and lab manuals, using visual aids, conducting group activities, and other successful communication practices. The following is a detailed list of the strategies used in the field of biology. All of these practices affect its audience in many ways.

Facilities

When I took biology a year ago, material was presented in a lab environment with the use of biology text books and lab manuals. As a student, you were required to have safety goggles, latex gloves, lab books to record findings, and to dress appropriately in order to participate in the field. The laboratory I participated in was extremely spacious. My classmates and I performed experiments on tall work stations that had a lot of room to operate on. Much of the work was done standing up, so the height of the tables was convenient. The work stations were arranged in rows rather than spread out around the room; each row fitting approximately four students on each side. The appearance of the facility tells students and other audience members that the field requires hands-on and experimental work in order to convey information. The field, contrary to sitting and listening, relies heavily on participation.

Classroom Communication

My biology class was separated into two parts: lecture and lab. The field focuses highly on the laboratory side, but also highlights key points during lecture in order for students to have a better understanding before conducting experiments.

“Students will learn best if they are actively engaged and if their activities are closely linked to understanding important biological concepts”(Doherty, 2009). Information is presented through lectures and PowerPoint presentations and then gets the audience involved by presenting in a lab environment. Demonstrations are conducted followed by student interactions. In my class, we were given a list of objectives and were shown what to do by the professor. After the demonstration and briefing, we then performed the assigned experiments by ourselves; using the knowledge we gained in class lecture to assist us. Experiments ranged from dissecting fetal pigs to examining plant cells.

A significant communication method in the field is the instructor consistently asking questions. I found this to be very common in my biology class because my classmates and I were always waiting for another question. “Questions reveal misconceptions and misunderstandings that must be addressed to move student thinking forward. Questions challenge students’ thinking, leading them to insights and discoveries of their own” (Allen, 2002). Along with lectures and experiments, papers were also assigned. The premise of these papers was to research certain scientific procedures and understand how it relates to what’s being learned in the classroom.

My biology lecture class was large with approximately four-hundred students. When we broke up into lab, the size reduced considerably. There were around fourteen or fifteen students in my lab class with a mix in gender and race. I was able to conduct an interview on Stacey Moore, a family friend who was a biology instructor for sixteen years in Virginia Beach, VA. “When I used lectures, I wanted to create more class discussion rather than just writing down the notes and moving on. I wanted my students to fully remember the information so they wouldn’t feel lost when it came to lab participation,” said Moore. “I always aim to ask questions to keep their attention. And sometimes by doing that, they ask questions back to me they never would have thought of if I didn’t ask the question in the first place.” According to Moore, she encourages strong note taking if you’re studying within the field, and to use visual aids whenever possible. You have to be well aware of the description and look of a part of animal before you experiment on it.

Research Practices

I researched the importance of genetics, a branch of biology dealing with the science of genes, and how the field’s research is communicated to other people and why.

“Communication in genetics is a practice that involves writing research papers for publication, attending scientific conferences and seminars, participating on review panels, and collaborating with other geneticists through informal communication” (A Guide to Communication Practice in Genetics). In the field of biology, publishing scientific journals is the most significant way to record research and share with other scientists. “Journals are the main way for geneticists to publish their research and attain credit for their discoveries” (A Guide to Communication Practice in Genetics). A practitioner’s main audience, therefore, are other practitioners researching the same subject or study. They are publishing their research to compare with other findings.

Practitioner’s rely heavily on scientific research and conduct most of it physically in a lab. The field’s research types consist of stem cell research, cardiac function and dysfunction, embryo development, animal evolution, and several other forms. Most of their research is funded by research grants or even scholarships for students. A few foundations that relate to biology research are the Wadsworth Foundation, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Proposals play a significant role in helping practitioners receive funding because of the high demand for scientific funding.

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