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ERIC Number: EJ1097017
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Mar
Pages: 13
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1931-7913
Beyond the Central Dogma: Model-Based Learning of How Genes Determine Phenotypes
Reinagel, Adam; Speth, Elena Bray
CBE - Life Sciences Education, v15 n1 Article 4 Mar 2016
In an introductory biology course, we implemented a learner-centered, model-based pedagogy that frequently engaged students in building conceptual models to explain how genes determine phenotypes. Model-building tasks were incorporated within case studies and aimed at eliciting students' understanding of 1) the origin of variation in a population and 2) how genes/alleles determine phenotypes. Guided by theory on hierarchical development of systems-thinking skills, we scaffolded instruction and assessment so that students would first focus on articulating isolated relationships between pairs of molecular genetics structures and then integrate these relationships into an explanatory network. We analyzed models students generated on two exams to assess whether students' learning of molecular genetics progressed along the theoretical hierarchical sequence of systems-thinking skills acquisition. With repeated practice, peer discussion, and instructor feedback over the course of the semester, students' models became more accurate, better contextualized, and more meaningful. At the end of the semester, however, more than 25% of students still struggled to describe phenotype as an output of protein function. We therefore recommend that 1) practices like modeling, which require connecting genes to phenotypes; and 2) well-developed case studies highlighting proteins and their functions, take center stage in molecular genetics instruction.
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 (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: 0910278; 1245410