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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: robson@morningside.edu.
    • 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 CE2002Perspective: Teaching evolution in higher educationEvolution561891190112449476
2. Green DS, Bozzone DM2001A test of hypotheses about random mutation: Using classic experiments to teach experimental designThe American Biology Teacher63545810.2307/4451031 http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/4451031
3. Ingram EL, Nelson CE2006Relationship between achievement and students’ acceptance of evolution or creation in an upper-level evolution courseJRST43724
4. Limon M2001On the cognitive conflict as an instructional strategy for conceptual change: a critical appraisalLearning and Instruction1135738010.1016/S0959-4752(00)00037-2 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0959-4752(00)00037-2
5. Luria SE, Delbrück M1943Mutations of bacteria from virus sensitivity to virus resistanceGenetics2849151117247100
6. Mao SL, Chang CY, Barufaldi JP1998Inquiry teaching and its effects on secondary schools students’ learning of earth science conceptsJ Geoscience Educ46363368
7. Mayr E1982The growth of biological thought: Diversity, evolution, and inheritance Har0vardUniversity PressCambridge, MA
8. Mazur A2004Believers and disbelievers in evolutionPolitics and the Life Sciences23556110.2990/1471-5457(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 J2002Creationist vs. evolutionary beliefs: Effects on learning biologyThe American Biology Teacher64189192
10. Nehm RH, Reilly L2007Biology majors’ knowledge and misconceptions about natural selectionBioScience5726327210.1641/B570311 http://dx.doi.org/10.1641/B570311
11. Saunders WL1992The constructivist perspective: Implications and teaching strategies for scienceSchool Science and Mathematics9213614110.1111/j.1949-8594.1992.tb12159.x http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1949-8594.1992.tb12159.x
12. Smith MU2010Current status of research in teaching and learning evolution: II. Pedagogical issuesScience and Education1953957110.1007/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
2017-11-22

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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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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