Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology
sponsoring Institutes
Main Getting Started Teacher's Guide Student Activities About NIH and NCRR
glossary | map | contact 
National Institutes of Health website National Center for Research Resources website


National Institutes of Health
National Center for Research Resources

Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology

Main    Getting Started    Teacher's Guide    Student Activities    About NIH and NCRR

Glossary    Map    Contact

Teacher's Guide hand using a mouse

Teacher's Guide

Implementing the Module

The four lessons in this module are designed to be taught in sequence for approximately one week as a replacement for a part of the standard curriculum in high school biology. The following pages offer general suggestions about using these materials in the classroom; you will find specific suggestions in the procedures provided for each lesson.

What Are the Goals of the Module?

Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology is designed to help students reach these major goals associated with scientific literacy:

What Are the Science Concepts and How Are They Connected?

The lessons are organized into a conceptual framework that allows students to move from what they already know about technology, some of which may be incorrect, to gaining a scientific perspective on the nature of technology and its importance to science and to their lives. Students begin learning about technology by developing their own definition of it and learning about scale (What Is Technology?). Students continue to explore the concept of scale and investigate resolution (Resolving Issues). An investigation of how technologies can be used to solve scientific problems related to human health (Putting Technology to Work) allows students to gain a deeper understanding of technology's importance to our lives. The final lesson, Technology: How Much Is Enough?, allows students to consider the current state of technology and design new technologies to answer questions of relevance to cellular and molecular biology. The following two tables illustrate the science content and conceptual flow of the classroom lessons.

Science Content of the Lessons
Lesson Science Content
Lesson 1 Technology; scale
Lesson 2 Resolution
Lesson 3 Microscopy; X-ray crystallography; using technology to understand and solve health-related problems
Lesson 4 History of technology development; development of new technologies


Conceptual Flow of the Lessons
Lesson Learning Focus* Major Concept
Lesson 1
What Is Technology?
Technology is a body of knowledge used to create tools, develop skills, and extract or collect materials. It is also the application of science (the combination of the scientific method and material) to meet an objective or solve a problem. Scale is a way to represent the relationship between the actual size of an object and how that size is characterized, either numerically or visually.
Lesson 2
Resolving Issues
It is important to identify the right tool (technology) for the job. An important consideration is technology's ability to resolve structural details of biological objects. Two objects can be resolved if they are illuminated with radiation (that is, a probe) of wavelength (that is, size) that is not larger than the distance separating the objects. Generally, the smaller the probe used, the greater the structural detail, or resolution, that results. Detailed structural knowledge about biological objects requires information obtained in three dimensions, not just two.
Lesson 3
Putting Technology to Work
Technologies differ in their resolving capabilities, thus providing different information about an object. Solving a problem requires an appropriate technology or series of technologies. Technology provides valuable tools for solving scientific problems of relevance to human health.
Lesson 4
Technology: How Much Is Enough?
Evaluate New technologies are developed, and old technologies are improved and refined, continuously. This must be done to meet the demands created by new and existing problems.
*See How Does the 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-Based Learning?

How Does the Module Correlate to the National Science Education Standards?

Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology supports you in your efforts to reform science education in the spirit of the National Research Council's 1996 National Science Education Standards (NSES). The content of the module is explicitly standards based. Each time a standard is addressed in a lesson, an icon appears in the margin along with the applicable standard. The following chart lists the specific content standards that this module addresses.

Content Standards: High School
Standard A:
As a result of activities in grades 9–12, all students should develop
Correlation to Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology
Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry  
  • Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation.
Lesson 3
  • Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications.
Lessons 2, 3, 4
  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.
Lesson 3
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models.
Lessons 1, 3
  • Communicate and defend a scientific argument.
Lessons 3, 4
Understandings about scientific inquiry  
  • Scientists usually inquire about how physical, living, or designed systems function.
Lessons 3, 4
  • Scientists conduct investigations for a wide variety of reasons, such a to discover new aspects of the natural world, to explain observed phenomenon, or to test conclusions of prior investigations or predic tions of current theories.
Lesson 3
  • Scientists rely on technology to enhance gathering and manipulating data.
Lessons 2, 3, 4
  • Mathematics is essential in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Lessons 1, 4
  • Scientific explanations must adhere to criteria.
Lesson 3
  • New knowledge and methods emerge from different types of investi gations and public communication among scientists.
Lessons 3, 4
Standard B:
As a result of their activities in grades 912, all students should develop understanding of
Structure and properties of matter  
  • The physical properties of molecules are determined by the structure of the molecule.
Lesson 3
Standard C:
As a result of their activities in grades 912, all students should develop understanding of
The cell  
  • Cells have particular structures that underlie their functions.
Lesson 3
Standard E:
As a result of their activities in grades 912, all students should develop understanding of
Abilities of technological design  
  • Identify a problem or design an opportunity.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Implement a proposed solution.
Lessons 2, 3
  • Evaluate the solution and its consequences.
Lessons 2, 3, 4
  • Communicate the problem, process, and solution.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
Understandings about science and technology  
  • Many scientific investigations require contributions from different disciplines, including engineering.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Science often advances with new technologies.
Lessons 1, 4
  • Creativity, imagination, and a good knowledge base are all required in the work of science and engineering.
Lessons 1, 4
  • Scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natura world, and technological design is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems.
Lessons 1, 4
Standard F:
As a result of their activities in grades 912, all students should develop understanding of
Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges  
  • Science and technology are essential social enterprises.
Lessons 1, 4
  • Progress in science and technology can be affected by social issues and challenges.
Standard G:
As a result of their activities in grades 912, all students should develop understanding of
Science as a human endeavor  
  • Individuals and teams have contributed and will continue to contribute to the scientific enterprise.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Scientists have ethical traditions that value peer review, truthful reporting about methods and investigations, and making public the results of work.
Lesson 3
  • Scientists are influenced by societal, cultural, and personal beliefs. Science is a part of society.
Lessons 1, 4
Nature of scientific knowledge  
  • Science distinguishes itself form other ways of knowing and from other bodies of knowledge through the use of empirical standards, logical arguments, and skepticism.
Lesson 3
  • Scientific explanations must meet certain criteria such as consistency and accuracy.
Lesson 3
  • All scientific knowledge is subject to change as new evidence becomes available.
Lessons 1, 4

Teaching Standards

The suggested teaching strategies in all the lessons support you as you work to meet the teaching standards outlined in the National Science Education Standards. This module helps you plan an inquiry-based science program by providing short-term objectives for students. It also includes planning tools such as the Conceptual Flow of the Lessons chart and the Suggested Timeline for teaching the module. You can use this module to update your curriculum in response to your students' interest in this topic. The focus on active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning in the lessons helps you support the development of student understanding and nurture a community of science learners.

The structure of the lessons in this module enables you to guide and facilitate learning. All the activities encourage and support student inquiry, promote discourse among students, and challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their learning. Using the 5E Instructional Model, combined with active, collaborative learning, allows you to respond effectively to the diversity of student backgrounds and learning styles. The module is fully annotated, with suggestions for how you can encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry, as well as foster the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize successful study of science.

Assessment Standards

You can engage in ongoing assessment of your teaching and of student learning using the variety of assessment components embedded within the module's structure. The assessment tasks are authentic; they are similar to tasks that students will engage in outside the classroom or in which scientists participate. Annotations guide you to these opportunities for assessment and provide answers to questions that can help you analyze student feedback.

How Does the 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-Based Learning?

Because learning does not occur through a process of passive absorption, the lessons in this module promote active learning. Students are involved in more than listening and reading. They are developing skills, analyzing and evaluating evidence, experiencing and discussing, and talking to their peers about their own understandings. Students work collaboratively with others to solve problems and plan investigations. Many students find that they learn better when they work with others in a collaborative environment than when they work alone in a competitive environment. When all this active, collaborative learning is directed toward inquiry science, students succeed in making their own discoveries. They ask questions, observe, analyze, explain, draw conclusions, and ask new questions. These inquiry experiences include both those that involve students in direct experimentation and those in which students develop explanations through critical and logical thinking.

This view of students as active thinkers who construct their own understanding out of interactions with phenomena, the environment, and other individuals is based on the theory of constructivism. A constructivist view of learning recognizes that students need time to

This module provides a built-in structure for creating a constructivist classroom: the 5E Instructional Model. This model sequences the learning experiences so that students have the opportunity to construct their understanding of a concept over time. The model takes students through five phases of learning that are easily described using five words that begin with the letter E: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. The following paragraphs illustrate how the 5Es are implemented across the lessons in this module.


Students come to learning situations with prior knowledge. This knowledge may or may not be congruent with the concepts presented in this module. Engage lessons provide the opportunity for teachers to find out what students already know or think they know about the topic and concepts to be covered.

The Engage lesson in this module, Lesson 1: What Is Technology?, is designed to


In the Explore portions of the module, Lesson 1: How Low Can You Go? (Activity 2), Lesson 2: Resolving Issues, and Lesson 3: Putting Technology to Work, students investigate scale, resolution, and the utility of technology to solve scientific problems, including those relevant to human health. These lessons require students to make observations, evaluate and interpret data, and draw conclusions. Students


The Explain lessons provide opportunities for students to connect their previous experiences and to begin to make conceptual sense of the main ideas of the module. This stage also allows for the introduction of formal language, scientific terms, and content information that might make students' previous experiences easier to describe and explain.

In the Explain lessons in this module, Lesson 1: What Is Technology?, Lesson 2: Resolving Issues, and Lesson 3: Putting Technology to Work, students


In the Elaborate lesson, Lesson 3: Putting Technology to Work, students apply or extend important concepts in new situations and relate their previous experiences to new ones. Students make conceptual connections between new and former experiences. In this lesson, students


The Evaluate lesson is the final stage of the instructional model, but it only provides a "snapshot" of what the students understand and how far they have come from where they began. In reality, the evaluation of students' conceptual understanding and ability to use skills begins with the Engage lesson and continues throughout each stage of the instructional model, as described in the following section. Combined with the students' written work and performance of tasks throughout the module, however, the Evaluate lesson can serve as a summative assessment of what students know and can do.

The Evaluate lesson in this module, Lesson 4: Technology: How Much Is Enough?, provides an opportunity for students to

To review the relationship of the 5E Instructional Model to the concepts presented in the module, see the Conceptual Flow of the Lessons chart.

When a teacher uses the 5E Instructional Model, he or she engages in practices that are very different from those of a traditional teacher. In response, students also participate in their learning in ways that are different from those experienced in a traditional classroom. The following charts, What the Teacher Does and What the Students Do, outline these differences.

What the Teacher Does
Stage That is consistent with the 5E Instructional Model That is inconsistent with the 5E Instructional Model
  • Piques students' curiosity and generates interest
  • Determines students' current understanding (prior knowledge) of a concept or idea
  • Invites students to express what they think
  • Invites students to raise their own questions
  • Introduces vocabulary
  • Explains concepts
  • Provides definitions and answers
  • Provides closure
  • Discourages students' ideas and questions
  • Encourages student-to-student interaction
  • Observes and listens to the students as they interact
  • Asks probing questions to help students make sense of their experiences
  • Provides time for students to puzzle through problems
  • Provides answers
  • Proceeds too rapidly for students to make sense of their experiences
  • Provides closure
  • Tells the students that they are wrong
  • Gives information and facts that solve the problem
  • Leads the students step-by-step to a solution
  • Encourages students to use their common experiences and data from the Engage and Explore lessons to develop explanations
  • Asks questions that help students express understanding and explanations
  • Requests justification (evidence) for students' explanations
  • Provides time for students to com pare their ideas with those of others and perhaps to revise their thinking
  • Introduces terminology and alterna tive explanations after students express their ideas
  • Neglects to solicit students' explanations
  • Ignores data and information students athered from previous lessons
  • Dismisses students' ideas
  • Accepts explanations that are not supported by evidence
  • Introduces unrelated concepts or skills
  • Focuses students' attention on con ceptual connections between new and former experiences
  • Encourages students to use what they have learned to explain a new event or idea
  • Reinforces students' use of scientific terms and descriptions previously introduced
  • Asks questions that help students draw reasonable conclusions from evidence and data
  • Neglects to help students connect new and former experiences
  • Provides definitive answers
  • Tells students that they are wrong
  • Leads students step-by-step to a solution
  • Observes and records as students demonstrate their understanding ofconcept(s) and performance of skills
  • Provides time for students to compare their ideas with those of others and perhaps to revise their thinking
  • Interviews students as a means of assessing their developing understanding
  • Encourages students to assess their own progress
  • Tests vocabulary words, terms, and isolated facts
  • Introduces new ideas or concepts
  • Creates ambiguity
  • Promotes open-ended discussion unrelated to the concept or skill
What the Students Do
Stage That is consistent with the 5E Instructional Model That is inconsistent with the 5E Instructional Model
  • Become interested in and curious about the concept/topic
  • Express current understanding of a concept or idea
  • Raise questions such as, What do I already know about this? What do I want to know about this? How could I find out?
  • Ask for the "right" answer
  • Offer the "right" answer
  • Insist on answers or explanations
  • Seek closure
  • "Mess around" with materials and ideas
  • Conduct investigations in which they observe, describe, and record data
  • Try different ways to solve a problem or answer a question
  • Acquire a common set of experiences so they can compare results and ideas
  • Compare their ideas with those of others

  • Let others do the thinking and exploring (passive involvement)
  • Work quietly with little or no interaction with others (only appropriate when exploring ideas or feelings)
  • Stop with one solution
  • Demand or seek closure
  • Explain concepts and ideas in their own words
  • Base their explanations on evidence acquired during previous investigations
  • Record their ideas and current understanding
  • Reflect on and perhaps revise their ideas
  • Express their ideas using appropriate scientific language
  • Compare their ideas with what scien tists know and understand
  • Propose explanations from "thin air" with no relationship to previous experiences
  • Bring up irrelevant experiences and examples
  • Accept explanations without justification
  • Ignore or dismiss other plausible explanations
  • Propose explanations without evidence to support their ideas
  • Make conceptual connections between new and former experiences
  • Use what they have learned to explain a new object, event, organism, or idea
  • Use scientific terms and descriptions
  • Draw reasonable conclusions from evidence and data
  • Communicate their understanding to others
  • Ignore previous information or evidence
  • Draw conclusions from "thin air"
  • Use terminology inappropriately and without understanding
  • Demonstrate what they understand about the concept(s) and how well they can implement a skill
  • Compare their current thinking with that of others and perhaps revise their ideas
  • Assess their own progress by com- paring their current understanding with their prior knowledge
  • Ask new questions that take them deeper into a concept or topic area
  • Disregard evidence or previously accepted explanations in drawing conclusions
  • Offer only yes-or-no answers or memorized definitions or explanations as answers
  • Fail to express satisfactory explanations in their own words
  • Introduce new, irrelevant topics

How Does the Module Support Ongoing Assessment?

Because teachers will use this module in a variety of ways and at a variety of points in the curriculum, the most appropriate mechanism for assessing student learning is one that occurs informally at various points within the four lessons, rather than something that happens more formally just once at the end of the module. Accordingly, integrated within the four lessons in the module are specific assessment components. These "embedded" assessment opportunities include one or more of the following strategies:

These strategies allow the teacher to assess a variety of aspects of the learning process, such as students' prior knowledge and current understanding, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, level of understanding of new information, communication skills, and ability to synthesize ideas and apply understanding to a new situation.

assessment iconAn assessment icon and an annotation that describes the aspect of learning that teachers can assess appear in the margin beside each step in which embedded assessment occurs.

How Can Controversial Topics Be Handled in the Classroom?

Teachers sometimes feel that the discussion of values is inappropriate in the science classroom or that it detracts from the learning of "real" science. The lessons in this module, however, are based on the conviction that there is much to be gained by involving students in analyzing issues of science, technology, and society. Society expects all citizens to participate in the democratic process, and our educational system must provide opportunities for students to learn to deal with contentious issues with civility, objectivity, and fairness. Likewise, students need to learn that science intersects with life in many ways.

In this module, students have a variety of opportunities to discuss, interpret, and evaluate basic science and health issues, some in the light of values and ethics. As students encounter issues about which they feel strongly, some discussions might become controversial. How much controversy develops will depend on many factors, such as how similar the students are with respect to socioeconomic status, perspectives, value systems, and religious preferences. In addition, the language and attitude of the teacher factor into the flow of ideas and the quality of exchange among the students.

The following guidelines may help you facilitate discussions that balance factual information with feelings.

Next: Using the Web Site

Return to Teacher's Guide