Why Did it Happen Then? The Example of Pare
Causal explanation, like aspects of other concepts such as change and continuity, can be problematic for some students because they can’t visualize the process of identifying and attaching relative significance to causes. This doesn’t mean they can’t develop a sophisticated understanding of why an event happened when it did – just that their route to understanding will be via physical organization of causes rather than by thinking and writing. This activity is therefore designed to help more students develop their ability to think effectively about causation. It is modelled on activities such as Activity on p.62 in Essential Medicine, p.193 in Edexcel Medicine or p.197 in the white Medicine book.
Objectives for the activity are:
- understanding the story of a key development or discovery
- explaining why the development or discovery took place
- identifying the roles of individual factors and assessing their relative importance
- The story of a key development e.g. that of Pare (see pp.58-59 Essential Medicine or other books)
- Tabards identifying the key factors affecting medicine in general i.e. war, government, attitudes and religion, communications chance, science and technology, individual genius. The easiest way to make tabards is to fold a piece of sugar paper in half and cut a semi-circle in the folded edge as the hole for a head. Now write the topic in large letters on the tabard.
a. Choose one student to be Pare and place Pare in a chair in the centre of the room. Then give the factor tabards to other students and place these human factors in a circle equidistant from Pare.
b. Now begin telling or reading aloud the story of Pare. Each time anyone in the class identifies a factor affecting Pare’s work then move that human factor one step closer to Pare (perhaps two if a factor is very important). Continue like this, building up a human spider diagram.
c. As the story progresses, other students should keep a diagrammatic plan of the moves, annotating it with details to explain the movements.
d. Once you have completed the story, the physical movements should have revealed that some factors are now closer to Pare than others – these were therefore the most significant factors in explaining his breakthrough. Now go back over the movements of each factor, either asking the student playing the factor to explain their role or asking others in the class for their explanations. Not all of them may have anything to say - in which case the question is "why hasn't this factor moved at all?"
e. Now move onto discussing how factors were interlinked in bringing about change. Ask students to suggest links and to make them physical by connecting the factors involved using a ball of string or coloured wool.
f. This human spider diagram then needs recording, perhaps using a digital camera or phone camera to record the scene and put onto the school network for annotating.
g. If students are going to complete a piece of written work, the human factors can also be used to structure the writing. Rearrange them as a physical plan, deciding which factor will be the focus of the first paragraph which the second and so on. Involve the other students by creating groups around each human factor - their task is to talk through the paragraph and plan it aloud. The target is to create a short essay that everyone can hear.
Notes & Variations
This activity can be done with Vesalius and Harvey and also with major discoveries and developments in the 19th and 20th centuries