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ERIC Number: EJ1121394
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Dec
Pages: 28
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1931-7913
Fostering 21st-Century Evolutionary Reasoning: Teaching Tree Thinking to Introductory Biology Students
Novick, Laura R.; Catley, Kefyn M.
CBE - Life Sciences Education, v15 n4 Article 66 Dec 2016
The ability to interpret and reason from Tree of Life (ToL) diagrams has become a vital component of science literacy in the 21st century. This article reports on the effectiveness of a research-based curriculum, including an instructional booklet, laboratory, and lectures, to teach the fundamentals of such tree thinking in an introductory biology class for science majors. We present the results of a study involving 117 undergraduates who received either our new research-based tree-thinking curriculum or business-as-usual instruction. We found greater gains in tree-thinking abilities for the experimental instruction group than for the business-as-usual group, as measured by performance on our novel assessment instrument. This was a medium size effect. These gains were observed on an unannounced test that was administered ~5-6 weeks after the primary instruction in tree thinking. The nature of students' postinstruction difficulties with tree thinking suggests that the critical underlying concept for acquiring expert-level competence in this area is understanding that any specific phylogenetic tree is a subset of the complete, unimaginably large ToL.
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; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Institute of Education Sciences (ED)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: North Carolina
IES Funded: Yes
Grant or Contract Numbers: R305A080621