NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ881475
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 27
ISSN: ISSN-0002-7685
Prions: Introducing a Complex Scientific Controversy to a Biology Classroom
Zaitsev, Igor V.
American Biology Teacher, v71 n9 p525-527, 529-530 Nov-Dec 2009
Thomas Kuhn, in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," posited that science does not progress by the steady accumulation of knowledge, but rather by a system of competition among paradigms. They vie for supremacy through greater parsimony, explanatory power, and popularity among the community of scientists (Kuhn, 1962). The current controversy concerning the identity of prions (PrPs) (proteins devoid of the nucleic acid) as the infectious agents of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) elucidates all the issues involved in just such a debate. While modern biology high school and university textbooks cover many scientific controversies that have been resolved decades and even centuries ago, they fail to cover current scientific disputes. This article is intended to address such an omission by introducing the prion controversy in biology classes in high schools and colleges. The author suggests that prion controversy would be best introduced at the conclusion of the biology course. Having covered the scientific method, characteristics of living things, the structure of proteins and nucleic acids, the immune response, the nervous system, and Koch's postulates, students would then have the background to engage with the issues. Since this controversy requires the integration of biological knowledge, as well as the skills to apply the scientific method of inquiry, it could be used advantageously by biology teachers either in high schools or colleges. To increase classroom participation, and at the same time review material covered during the course, the author has devised interrupted case classroom discussion on TSE consisting of two sessions. The suggested strategy in approaching the topic is presented. (Contains 4 tables.)
National Association of Biology Teachers. 12030 Sunrise Valley Drive # 110, Reston, VA 20191. Tel: 800-406-0775; Tel: 703-264-9696; Fax: 703-264-7778; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools; Higher Education
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A