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What’s Downstream? A Set of Classroom Exercises to Help Students Understand Recessive Epistasis

    Authors: Jennifer K. Knight1,*, William B. Wood1, Michelle K. Smith2
    VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0347; 2: School of Biology and Ecology, Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE), University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 02 December 2013
    • Supplemental materials available at http://jmbe.asm.org
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Campus Box 347, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0347. Phone: 303-735-1949. Fax: 303-492-7744. E-mail: knight@colorado.edu.
    • ©2013 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2013 vol. 14 no. 2 197-205. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.560
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    Abstract:

    Undergraduate students in genetics and developmental biology courses often struggle with the concept of epistasis because they are unaware that the logic of gene interactions differs between enzymatic pathways and signaling pathways. If students try to develop and memorize a single simple rule for predicting epistatic relationships without taking into account the nature of the pathway under consideration, they can become confused by cases where the rule does not apply. To remedy this problem, we developed a short pre-/post-test, an in-class activity for small groups, and a series of clicker questions about recessive epistasis in the context of a signaling pathway that intersects with an enzymatic pathway. We also developed a series of homework problems that provide deliberate practice in applying concepts in epistasis to different pathways and experimental situations. Students show significant improvement from pretest to posttest, and perform well on homework and exam questions following this activity. Here we describe these materials, as well as the formative and summative assessment results from one group of students to show how the activities impact student learning.

Key Concept Ranking

Signalling Pathway
0.63827246
Caenorhabditis elegans
0.5074627
Gene Expression
0.38443586
Gene
0.36555704
Mutation
0.35600534
0.63827246

References & Citations

1. Avery L, Wasserman I1992Ordering gene function: the interpretation of epistasis in regulatory hierarchiesTIG83123161365397
2. Bloom BS, Englehart MD, Furst EJ, Hill WH, Krathwohl DR1956A Taxonomy of Educational ObjectivesHandbook 1: Cognitive DomainMcKayNew York
3. Crouch CH, Watkins J, Fagen AP, Mazur E2007Peer instruction: engaging students one-on-one, all at once155 Redish EF, Cooney PReviews in Physics Education ResearchAmerican Association of Physics TeachersCollege Park, MD
4. Griffiths AJF, et al2000An introduction to genetic analysis7th editionW. H. FreemanNew York
5. Perez KE, Strauss EA, Downey N, Galbraith A, Jeanne R, Cooper S2010Does displaying the class results affect student discussion during peer instruction?CBE Life Sci Educ913314010.1187/cbe.09-11-0080205163582879379 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.09-11-0080
6. Smith MK, Wood WB, Krauter K, Knight JK2011Combining peer discussion with instructor explanation increases student learning from in-class concept questionsCBE Life Sci Educ10556310.1187/cbe.10-08-0101213641003046888 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.10-08-0101
7. Smith MK, et al2009Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questionsScience32312212410.1126/science.116591919119232 http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1165919
8. Sternberg PW2005Vulval development128The C. elegans Research CommunityWormBookhttp://www.wormbook.org.
9. Wang M, Sternberg PW2001Pattern formation during C. elegans vulval inductionCurr Top Dev Biol5118922011236714
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.560
2013-12-02
2017-11-22

Abstract:

Undergraduate students in genetics and developmental biology courses often struggle with the concept of epistasis because they are unaware that the logic of gene interactions differs between enzymatic pathways and signaling pathways. If students try to develop and memorize a single simple rule for predicting epistatic relationships without taking into account the nature of the pathway under consideration, they can become confused by cases where the rule does not apply. To remedy this problem, we developed a short pre-/post-test, an in-class activity for small groups, and a series of clicker questions about recessive epistasis in the context of a signaling pathway that intersects with an enzymatic pathway. We also developed a series of homework problems that provide deliberate practice in applying concepts in epistasis to different pathways and experimental situations. Students show significant improvement from pretest to posttest, and perform well on homework and exam questions following this activity. Here we describe these materials, as well as the formative and summative assessment results from one group of students to show how the activities impact student learning.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1.

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FIGURE 1.

A hypothetical yeast enzymatic pathway regulated by a hypothetical signaling pathway. (A) Enzymatic pathway alone (see text for context). A, B, and C are small molecules. Heavy arrows represent enzymatic reactions, and light arrows represent expression of the genes that encode the corresponding enzymes in the pathway. This pathway is controlled by the presence or absence of sucralose. (B) The same enzymatic pathway (lower line), intersecting with a signaling pathway (blue line) that is controlled by the presence or absence of neotame. In the signaling pathway, R, S, and T are proteins with the functions shown, encoded by Genes 3, 4, and 5 respectively. Light arrows indicate gene expression, but here, heavy arrows represent regulatory interactions: pointed arrows indicate activation, and the blunt arrow indicates inhibition. For example, in the presence of both sucralose and neotame, if the receptor R is activated by neotame binding, it activates the protein S. If S is active, it inactivates the transcription factor T, which is otherwise active and is required to activate transcription of Gene 2.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2013 vol. 14 no. 2 197-205. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.560
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Image of FIGURE 2.

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FIGURE 2.

Epistasis pretest and posttest questions. Correct answers are underlined.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2013 vol. 14 no. 2 197-205. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.560
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Image of FIGURE 3.

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FIGURE 3.

Clicker questions from in-class activity and follow-up. Correct answers are underlined and percentages of correct responses from students in the developmental biology class described in the discussion are shown.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2013 vol. 14 no. 2 197-205. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.560
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Image of FIGURE 4.

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FIGURE 4.

In-class application questions. (A) This question asks students to draw possible pathways of gene interaction, given the phenotype of mutants. (B) Clicker question in which students must choose the correct pathway based on additional evidence presented. Student performance on this question is shown for the individual vote, and following peer discussion. Correct answers are underlined.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2013 vol. 14 no. 2 197-205. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.560
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Image of FIGURE 5.

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FIGURE 5.

Performance (% correct) on the pretest and posttest questions. Pretest performance is represented by the blue bars and posttest performance by the red bars. For two posttest questions (2 and 3), students discussed their answer and re-voted (green bars). Average performance on the posttest, both before and after re-vote, is significantly higher than on the pretest (paired -test, < 0.05).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2013 vol. 14 no. 2 197-205. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.560
Download as Powerpoint

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