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Gain in Student Understanding of the Role of Random Variation in Evolution Following Teaching Intervention Based on Luria-Delbruck Experiment

    Authors: Rachel L. Robson1,*, Susan Burns2
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology and; 2: Department of Psychology, Morningside College, Sioux City, IA
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 19 May 2011
    • Supplemental material available at http://jmbe.asm.org
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Biology Department, Morningside College, 1501 Morningside Avenue, Sioux City, IA 51104. Phone: 712-274-5304. E-mail: [email protected].
    • Copyright © 2011, American Society for Microbiology
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2011 vol. 12 no. 1 3-7. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v12i1.272
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    Abstract:

    Undergraduate students in introductory biology classes are typically saddled with pre-existing popular beliefs that impede their ability to learn about biological evolution. One of the most common misconceptions about evolution is that the environment causes advantageous mutations, rather than the correct view that mutations occur randomly and the environment only selects for mutants with advantageous traits. In this study, a significant gain in student understanding of the role of randomness in evolution was observed after students participated in an inquiry-based pedagogical intervention based on the Luria-Delbruck experiment. Questionnaires with isomorphic questions regarding environmental selection among random mutants were administered to study participants (N = 82) in five separate sections of a sophomore-level microbiology class before and after the teaching intervention. Demographic data on each participant was also collected, in a way that preserved anonymity. Repeated measures analysis showed that post-test scores were significantly higher than pre-test scores with regard to the questions about evolution (F(1, 77) = 25.913, < 0.001). Participants’ pre-existing beliefs about evolution had no significant effect on gain in understanding of this concept. This study indicates that conducting and discussing an experiment about phage resistance in may improve student understanding of the role of stochastic events in evolution more broadly, as post-test answers showed that students were able to apply the lesson of the Luria-Delbruck experiment to other organisms subjected to other kinds of selection.

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References & Citations

1. Alters BJ, Nelson CE 2002 Perspective: Teaching evolution in higher education Evolution 56 1891 1901 12449476
2. Green DS, Bozzone DM 2001 A test of hypotheses about random mutation: Using classic experiments to teach experimental design The American Biology Teacher 63 54 58 10.2307/4451031 http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/4451031
3. Ingram EL, Nelson CE 2006 Relationship between achievement and students’ acceptance of evolution or creation in an upper-level evolution course JRST 43 7 24
4. Limon M 2001 On the cognitive conflict as an instructional strategy for conceptual change: a critical appraisal Learning and Instruction 11 357 380 10.1016/S0959-4752(00)00037-2 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0959-4752(00)00037-2
5. Luria SE, Delbrück M 1943 Mutations of bacteria from virus sensitivity to virus resistance Genetics 28 491 511 17247100
6. Mao SL, Chang CY, Barufaldi JP 1998 Inquiry teaching and its effects on secondary schools students’ learning of earth science concepts J Geoscience Educ 46 363 368
7. Mayr E 1982 The growth of biological thought: Diversity, evolution, and inheritance Har0vard University Press Cambridge, MA
8. Mazur A 2004 Believers and disbelievers in evolution Politics and the Life Sciences 23 55 61 10.2990/1471-5457(2004)23[55:BADIE]2.0.CO;2 http://dx.doi.org/10.2990/1471-5457(2004)23[55:BADIE]2.0.CO;2
9. McKeachie WJ, Lin YG, Strayer J 2002 Creationist vs. evolutionary beliefs: Effects on learning biology The American Biology Teacher 64 189 192
10. Nehm RH, Reilly L 2007 Biology majors’ knowledge and misconceptions about natural selection BioScience 57 263 272 10.1641/B570311 http://dx.doi.org/10.1641/B570311
11. Saunders WL 1992 The constructivist perspective: Implications and teaching strategies for science School Science and Mathematics 92 136 141 10.1111/j.1949-8594.1992.tb12159.x http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1949-8594.1992.tb12159.x
12. Smith MU 2010 Current status of research in teaching and learning evolution: II. Pedagogical issues Science and Education 19 539 571 10.1007/s11191-009-9216-4 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11191-009-9216-4

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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v12i1.272
2011-05-19
2019-02-19

Abstract:

Undergraduate students in introductory biology classes are typically saddled with pre-existing popular beliefs that impede their ability to learn about biological evolution. One of the most common misconceptions about evolution is that the environment causes advantageous mutations, rather than the correct view that mutations occur randomly and the environment only selects for mutants with advantageous traits. In this study, a significant gain in student understanding of the role of randomness in evolution was observed after students participated in an inquiry-based pedagogical intervention based on the Luria-Delbruck experiment. Questionnaires with isomorphic questions regarding environmental selection among random mutants were administered to study participants (N = 82) in five separate sections of a sophomore-level microbiology class before and after the teaching intervention. Demographic data on each participant was also collected, in a way that preserved anonymity. Repeated measures analysis showed that post-test scores were significantly higher than pre-test scores with regard to the questions about evolution (F(1, 77) = 25.913, < 0.001). Participants’ pre-existing beliefs about evolution had no significant effect on gain in understanding of this concept. This study indicates that conducting and discussing an experiment about phage resistance in may improve student understanding of the role of stochastic events in evolution more broadly, as post-test answers showed that students were able to apply the lesson of the Luria-Delbruck experiment to other organisms subjected to other kinds of selection.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Average percentage score on relevant questions on pre-test and post-test, for participants in all five sections. Error bars represent standard error of the mean (SEM = 3.8).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2011 vol. 12 no. 1 3-7. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v12i1.272
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FIGURE 2

Comparison of men’s and women’s average percentage score on relevant questions on pre-test and post-test. While no significant difference was observed in improvement on the post-test compared to the pre-test for either sex, men overall slightly outperformed women. Error bars represent standard error of the mean.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2011 vol. 12 no. 1 3-7. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v12i1.272
Download as Powerpoint

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