Friday, December 28, 2007

How can you use science to help you make decisions?

In the United States, and elsewhere, many people are often concerned about their weight, how can you use science to evaluate whether you want a macrobiotic diet, a lap-band ventura or anything in-between?
lap-band ventura

Evaluating any decision regarding your health and lifestyle requires sound scientific principles. People are often aware of processes of scientific method(s). Some students, and grown-ups, too, will think of these methods in science class, but forget to use them in every day life. Making sound decisions leads to better health and improved longevity.

Across grades K-12, researchers have focused on ways that students investigate, model, discuss, and understand increasingly sophisticated mathematics and science concepts.
Source: Accessed December 28, 2007.

Because of global warming, alternative energy, water use and other complicated social and environmental issues, people need to rely on basic science skills like evaluating data.
As a result of the societal and personal needs, decision making is being increasingly included in school curricula, for example,, Ohio Sea Grant's education project for development of electronic curricula for decision making using Great Lakes data.

But, it takes more than "book-learning" or even internet-learning to make decisions. Higher order thinking skills are essential. Let's look at a sample set of educational standards on this topic:

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)

# Standard 6: Technology Problem-solving and Decision-making Tools
* Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.
* Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.
Source: Accessed December 28, 2007.
The standards, like the ones shown above, often suggest the end result for students. But how do they get there? How do we, adults, get there when we make decisions? Whether picking shampoo, or choosing the best presidential candidate, whether selecting a diet, exercise routine or surgery, we (students and mentors alike) need good decision making skills. We need to think deeply.

I have found that encouraging high school students to use the HOT Skills wheel has helped them to develop the skills necessary to be able to make decisions well.
What are HOT Skills?

Let's look at HOT skills related to making a decision on the lap band.

Knowledge Comprehension Analysis Application Synthesis Evaluation
  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Analysis
  4. Application
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

Source: Accessed December 28, 2007.

Knowledge: Do you know what a lap band is?
Journey Lite specializes in Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding which is also known as LAGB or the LAP BAND System procedure. The LAPBAND Adjustable Gastric Band is designed to help you lose excess body weight, improve weight-related health conditions and enhance quality of life. It reduces the stomach capacity and restricts the amount of food that can be consumed at one time.
There's a quote from some of the LAPBAND advertising . It tells some information about the LAPBAND. This information falls in the "knowledge" category of thinking.

Another "knowledge" skill is to "list." Can you list products or lifestyle changes that compete with the LAPBAND? If you used the internet, or pamphlets at your doctor's office or from a medical or nursing text to list products and lifestyle changes that could acheive the same goals of the LAPBAND, you would still be in the knowledge category.

Comprehension: Do you understand the ideas gathered so far? The types of thinking you can do if you understand are:
  • interpretation of facts, compare, contrast
  • order, group, and infer causes
  • predict consequences
  • understanding information
  • translation of knowledge into new context
  • grasping meaning

How would you interpret the facts? Could you make a chart comparing the LAPBAND to competitors products? Could you talk to people who had the procedure and to people that made other life style choices and compare their answers?

Analysis: Do you see patterns? How are parts organized? DO you recognize any hidden meanings? Can you identify components?
Application: You can apply the data when you use information, methods, concepts,and theories in new situations. Solving problems by using required skills or knowledge is also, "application." For example, did you apply math skills that you already have to analyze the data.
Synthesis: Can you generalize from given facts, relate knowledge from several areas, predict, draw conclusions and use old ideas to create new ones? assess value of theories, make choices based on reasoned arguments, verify value of evidence, recognize subjectivity, compare and discriminate between/among ideas.

(c)2007 J S Shipman. Used by with the author's permission.

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