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DECISION MAKING IN A HIGH-TECH WORLD*

IS GENETIC ENGINEERING A THREAT TO FUTURE GENERATIONS?

Bob Legge
Aurora Public Schools
Aurora, Colorado

BACKGROUND
The students have had previous experience with using a "decision tree" and a "decision matrix" for making decisions involving biology and technology. In addition, students have previously used a decision making model to determine how genetic engineering should be regulated, particularly in regards to agricultural uses.

CONTENT
The students will demonstrate an ability to apply their knowledge of genetic engineering and decision making strategies to recommend a decision concerning the future use of genetic engineering in humans.

TASK
You will work in groups of four. Each group will choose from several controversial issues in biology which involve the use of technology. Information concerning both sides of the issue will be supplied to you by your teacher, but in order to fully develop this task you may have to do some outside research. Using the decision making model that you feel is most appropriate to the issue, generate a decision which will resolve that issue. You will be asked to share your decision, as well as the process that you went through to reach the decision, with the rest of the class. For this reason, you will be shown how to enter your criteria and alternatives into a computer in order to generate a graphic representation of your decision.

CONTENT OUTCOME

  1. Did the students final recommended decision meet the decision criteria and answer the initial decision question?
      4 - The student selected an alternative consistent with its rating on the criteria. The selection represents a well-supported answer to the initial decision question.
      3 - The student successfully answered the decision question by selecting an alternative that met or exceeded the established criteria.
      2 - The student selected an alternative that did not entirely conform to the student's assessment of the alternatives.
      1 - The student made a selection that did not appear reasonable, or could not be justified by the student's evaluation of the alternatives.

  2. Did the student apply accurate and important biological information to the process of decision-making?
      4 - The student selected information that was well-suited for answering the initial decision question, and showed original or creative thinking.
      3 - The student selected inforamtion that was well-suited to answering the initial decision question.
      2 - The student selected information that satisfied the basic criteria of the question, but created some difficulties in answering the decision question.
      1 - The student selected items that were inappropriate, inaccurate, or that created insurmountable obstacles in answering the decision question.

COMPLEX THINKING

  1. Did the student select appropriate and important criteria with which to assess the alternatives? Was the student accurate in the assessment of how important the criteria were to the decision?
      4 - The student clearly and completely identified the criteria by which the alternatives were assessed. The criteria were presented in detail and reflected an unusually thorough understanding and concern for the repercussions of the decision.
      3 - The stduent clearly identified the alternatives to be assessed. With no significant exceptions, the criteria are appropriate to the alternatives and important to the decision task.
      2 - The student correctly identified the principle criteria by which the alternatives would be assessed. Some criteria might be omitted, or included criteria might not be important factors for consideration or entirely appropriate for the decision.
      1 - The student did not specify any criteria appropriate for the selected alternatives or of importance to the decision.

LEARNING OUTCOME - COLLABORATIVE WORKER

  1. Did the student demonstrate interactive communication?
      4 - The student expressed ideas clearly and effectively; listened actively to the ideas of others; made a consistent effort to ensure that ideas were clearly and commonly understood; accurately analyzed verbal and non-verbal communications; solicited and showed respect for the opinions of others.
      3 - The student communicated ideas well; listened to the ideas of others; clarified own and others' thoughts to ensure that ideas were clearly and commonly understood; showed respect for the opinions of others.
      2 - The student communicated with others erratically, often not purposefully; did not make an effort to understand or to be understood; did not always respect the opinions of others.
      1 - The student did not communicate effectively; exhibited counter-productive behavior; demonstrated insensitivity to others' opinions.

Teacher's Notes:
This lesson is one that was specifically written for an outcome based curriculum that we are adopting in our school district. That is why it is in the format you see. The rubrics for Complex Thinking skills, Content Outcomes, Learner Outcomes have been developed in line with the district model. This kind of a lesson is especially useful for bioethics units. I use this as a final exam at the end of a Bio II class in Immunology and Biotechnology, after students have done experiments on DNA extraction and liquid bacterial transformation and have had class discussions on genetic engineering.

Using a model developed by Iozzi and Bastardo (1990)--Decisions For Today and Tomorrow, * I first taught students how to use a decision making matrix with a "hostage crisis" scenario as an example. I had students input information onto a spreadsheet with two concepts in mind:

(1) Alternative actions that could be undertaken and (2) Selection Criteria (Issues to be considered). For example, in this case alternative actions could include (among others) military action, economic sanctions, a blockade, or waiting the crisis out. Selection criteria might include hostage safety, world/public opinion, economic repercussions, etc. Probabilities are then assigned (from 1 to 10) for each action and entered. Selection criteria weighting factors are determined by priority ranking each criterion (say 1-6) and dividing by the total # of weighting factors. For example, if hostage safety is deemed most important among, say, 6 factors divide 6/21=.28. The total should add to 1.00. The final step involves multiplying the probabilities for each action by the fraction for each criterion developed previously, then adding the total for each action. The highest score should determine the best action to take.

I have included an example of how a spreadsheet may be set up. After practicing with this model, students can easily move on to genetic engineering and bioethical issues. My students enjoyed doing research on an issue of their choice and saw a "real world" application of the unit they studied.

This does not have to be done on computer spreadsheet. This can be done with a simple chart on an overhead. It is more interesting for the students to be able to input data and change probabilities,etc. easily and immediately see how those decisions affect outcomes. I had a spreadsheet charts copied onto several disks so that students could then use the school computer lab to enter their data. Another advantage of the computer approach is that they can make graphs of their decision and use an overhead transparency to explain and justify their decision in front of the class.

I have also included a copy of the criteria for evaluation I use and a student checklist.

I am also currently working on providing copies of graphics associated with this project. An article about this activity, written by Sandra Schnitzer and myself was published in the April 1993 edition of Educational Leadership (Authentic Learning)

*This series of modules on decision making and genetic engineering is available through the National Diffusion Network (NDN) and is interdisciplinary in approach.

STUDENT CHECKLIST

  1. _____We selected a final alternative that was consistent with its rating on the criteria.
    _____ We supported our decision.
    _____ We discussed problems and new information, and we tried to be aware of the repercussion of the decision we chose.

  2. _____We selected information that was important to making the decision.
    _____ We selected accurate biological information to use in making our decision.

  3. _____We identified all the important alternatives.
    _____ We identified the criteria that were important to the decision.

  4. _____ We assessed each alternative by using the criteria.
    _____ We applied the criteria to each alternative.

  5. _____ We listened to each other's ideas.
    _____ We presented our own ideas clearly so that others oculd understand our point of view.
    _____ We listened to each other's opinions respectfully.



View Activity Description


Activities-To-Go Index


Activities Exchange Index

CRITERIA FOR EVALUATIONEVALUATION
4 - 3 - 2 - 1
WEIGHT
5/ 3/ 1
SCORE
Did the student's final recommended
decision meet the criteria and
answer the decision question?
.
.
.
Did the student apply accurate and
important biological information
to the process of decision making?
.
.
.
Did the student select appropriate
and important criteria with which
to assess the alternatives? Was the
student accurate in the assessment of
how important the criteria were to
the decision?
.
.
.
Did the student accurately assess the
extent to which the alternatives possess
the identified characteristics?
.
.
.
Did the student demonstrate interactive
communication?
.
.
.


 
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