ERIC Number: EJ1017280
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Dec
Abstractor: As Provided
A Deliberate Practice Approach to Teaching Phylogenetic Analysis
Hobbs, F. Collin; Johnson, Daniel J.; Kearns, Katherine D.
CBE - Life Sciences Education, v12 n4 p676-686 Dec 2013
One goal of postsecondary education is to assist students in developing expert-level understanding. Previous attempts to encourage expert-level understanding of phylogenetic analysis in college science classrooms have largely focused on isolated, or "one-shot," in-class activities. Using a deliberate practice instructional approach, we designed a set of five assignments for a 300-level plant systematics course that incrementally introduces the concepts and skills used in phylogenetic analysis. In our assignments, students learned the process of constructing phylogenetic trees through a series of increasingly difficult tasks; thus, skill development served as a framework for building content knowledge. We present results from 5 yr of final exam scores, pre- and postconcept assessments, and student surveys to assess the impact of our new pedagogical materials on student performance related to constructing and interpreting phylogenetic trees. Students improved in their ability to interpret relationships within trees and improved in several aspects related to between-tree comparisons and tree construction skills. Student feedback indicated that most students believed our approach prepared them to engage in tree construction and gave them confidence in their abilities. Overall, our data confirm that instructional approaches implementing deliberate practice address student misconceptions, improve student experiences, and foster deeper understanding of difficult scientific concepts.
Descriptors: College Science, Science Instruction, Biology, Skill Development, Scientific Concepts, Concept Formation, Student Surveys, Genetics, Visual Aids, Evolution, Teaching Methods, Student Attitudes, Plants (Botany)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A