NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1038731
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Sep
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 57
ISSN: EISSN-1931-7913
Introductory Biology Students' Conceptual Models and Explanations of the Origin of Variation
Bray Speth, Elena; Shaw, Neil; Momsen, Jennifer; Reinagel, Adam; Le, Paul; Taqieddin, Ranya; Long, Tammy
CBE - Life Sciences Education, v13 n3 p529-539 Sep 2014
Mutation is the key molecular mechanism generating phenotypic variation, which is the basis for evolution. In an introductory biology course, we used a model-based pedagogy that enabled students to integrate their understanding of genetics and evolution within multiple case studies. We used student-generated conceptual models to assess understanding of the origin of variation. By midterm, only a small percentage of students articulated complete and accurate representations of the origin of variation in their models. Targeted feedback was offered through activities requiring students to critically evaluate peers' models. At semester's end, a substantial proportion of students significantly improved their representation of how variation arises (though one-third still did not include mutation in their models). Students' written explanations of the origin of variation were mostly consistent with their models, although less effective than models in conveying mechanistic reasoning. This study contributes evidence that articulating the genetic origin of variation is particularly challenging for learners and may require multiple cycles of instruction, assessment, and feedback. To support meaningful learning of the origin of variation, we advocate instruction that explicitly integrates multiple scales of biological organization, assessment that promotes and reveals mechanistic and causal reasoning, and practice with explanatory models with formative feedback.
American Society for Cell Biology. 8120 Woodmont Avenue Suite 750, Bethesda, MD 20814-2762. Tel: 301-347-9300; Fax: 301-347-9310; e-mail:; Website:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE-0736928|DRL-0910278