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A Cross-Course Investigation of Integrative Cases for Evolution Education

    Authors: Peter John Thomas White1,*, Merle K. Heidemann2, James J. Smith1
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    Affiliations: 1: Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823; 2: Department of Geological Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Supplemental materials available at http://jmbe.asm.org
      We distinguish “Cases” from “Case Studies” and discuss this difference, as well as the advantages of case-based approaches, in White et al. (21).
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, 919 E. Shaw Lane, Rm 36E, East Lansing, MI 48823. Phone: 517-353-6480. Fax: 517-432-2758. E-mail: pwhite@msu.edu.
    • ©2015 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2015 vol. 16 no. 2 157-166. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v16i2.876
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    Abstract:

    Evolution is a cornerstone theory in biology, yet many undergraduate students have difficulty understanding it. One reason for this is that evolution is often taught in a macro-scale context without explicit links to micro-scale processes. To address this, we developed a series of integrative evolution cases that present the evolution of various traits from their origin in genetic mutation, to the synthesis of modified proteins, to how these proteins produce novel phenotypes, to the related macro-scale impacts that the novel phenotypes have on populations in ecological communities. We postulated that students would develop a fuller understanding of evolution when learning biology in a context where these integrative evolution cases are used. We used a previously developed assessment tool, the ATEEK (Assessment Tool for Evaluating Evolution Knowledge), within a pre-course/post-course assessment framework. Students who learned biology in courses using the integrative cases performed significantly better on the evolution assessment than did students in courses that did not use the cases. We also found that student understanding of evolution increased with increased exposure to the integrative evolution cases. These findings support the general hypothesis that students acquire a more complete understanding of evolution when they learn about its genetic and molecular mechanisms along with macro-scale explanations.

References & Citations

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2. Alters BJ, Nelson CE2002Perspective: teaching evolution in higher educationEvolution561891190110.1111/j.0014-3820.2002.tb00115.x12449476 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0014-3820.2002.tb00115.x
3. Anderson DL, Fisher KM, Norman GJ2002Development and evaluation of the conceptual inventory of natural selectionJ Res Sci Teach3995297810.1002/tea.10053 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.10053
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7. Dauer JT, Momsen JL, Speth EB, Makohon-Moore SC, Long TM2013Analyzing change in students’ gene-to-evolution models in college-level introductory biologyJ Res Sci Teach5063965910.1002/tea.21094 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.21094
8. Demastes SS, Settlage J, Good R1995Students’ conceptions of natural selection and its role in evolution: cases of replication and comparisonJ Res Sci Teach3253555010.1002/tea.3660320509 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.3660320509
9. Dobzhansky T1973Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolutionAmer Biol Teach3512512910.2307/4444260 http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/4444260
10. Gregory TR2009Understanding natural selection: Essential concepts and common misconceptionsEvol Educ Outreach215617510.1007/s12052-009-0128-1 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12052-009-0128-1
11. Hake RR1998Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: a six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics coursesAm J Physics66647410.1119/1.18809 http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.18809
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15. Nehm R, et al2009Does the segregation of evolution in biology textbooks and introductory courses reinforce students’ faulty mental models of biology and evolution?Evol Educ Outreach252753210.1007/s12052-008-0100-5 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12052-008-0100-5
16. Nehm R, Schonfeld I2007Does increasing biology teacher knowledge of evolution and the nature of science lead to greater preference for the teaching of evolution in schools?J Sci Teacher Educ1869972310.1007/s10972-007-9062-7 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10972-007-9062-7
17. Nehm RH, Ha M2014Darwin’s difficulties and students’ struggles with trait loss: cognitive-historical parallelisms in evolutionary explanationSci Educ231051107410.1007/s11191-013-9626-1 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11191-013-9626-1
18. Nelson C2012Why don’t undergraduates really “get” evolution? What can faculty do? Karl SKB, Rosengren S, Margaret Evans E, Sinatra Gale MEvolution challenges: Integrating research and practice in teaching and learning about evolutionOxford University PressOxford10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199730421.003.0014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199730421.003.0014
19. Theobald R, Freeman S2014Is it the intervention or the students? Using linear regression to control for student characteristics in undergraduate STEM education researchCBE Life Sci Educ134148245915023940461
20. Trani R2004I won’t teach evolution; it’s against my religion. And now for the rest of the storytellingAm Biol Teach6641942710.1662/0002-7685(2004)066[0419:IWTIAM]2.0.CO;2 http://dx.doi.org/10.1662/0002-7685(2004)066[0419:IWTIAM]2.0.CO;2
21. White PJT, Heidemann MK, Loh M, Smith JJ2013Integrative cases for teaching evolutionEvol Educ Outreach61710.1186/1936-6434-6-17 http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1936-6434-6-17
22. White PJT, Heidemann MK, Smith JJ2013bA new integrative approach to evolution educationBioScience6358659410.1525/bio.2013.63.7.11 http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/bio.2013.63.7.11
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2015-12-01
2017-09-25

Abstract:

Evolution is a cornerstone theory in biology, yet many undergraduate students have difficulty understanding it. One reason for this is that evolution is often taught in a macro-scale context without explicit links to micro-scale processes. To address this, we developed a series of integrative evolution cases that present the evolution of various traits from their origin in genetic mutation, to the synthesis of modified proteins, to how these proteins produce novel phenotypes, to the related macro-scale impacts that the novel phenotypes have on populations in ecological communities. We postulated that students would develop a fuller understanding of evolution when learning biology in a context where these integrative evolution cases are used. We used a previously developed assessment tool, the ATEEK (Assessment Tool for Evaluating Evolution Knowledge), within a pre-course/post-course assessment framework. Students who learned biology in courses using the integrative cases performed significantly better on the evolution assessment than did students in courses that did not use the cases. We also found that student understanding of evolution increased with increased exposure to the integrative evolution cases. These findings support the general hypothesis that students acquire a more complete understanding of evolution when they learn about its genetic and molecular mechanisms along with macro-scale explanations.

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FIGURE 1

Average student gain on ATEEK questions in four courses using cases and in four courses where cases were not used. Gains (mean ± SE) on ATEEK questions were significantly higher among students in courses that featured integrative evolution cases (dark bars) than among students in courses that did not feature integrative evolution cases (light bars). Bars on individual questions are not shown where the average gain is negative, though error bars are still visible in some cases. Gains with the same letter mark within a graph do not differ significantly (Kruskal-Wallis with a post-hoc Dunn’s test, or, in the case of Normalized Gain, ANOVA with a post-hoc Tukey-Kramer test). ATEEK = Assessment Tool for Evaluating Evolution Knowledge; C = course in which integrated cases were used; NC = course in which integrative cases were not used; CMB = cell and molecular biology course; OB = organismal biology course; EVO = evolution course; SE = standard error.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2015 vol. 16 no. 2 157-166. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v16i2.876
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

ATEEK score for three cohorts of students, tracked across two introductory biology courses. Students in three cohorts were surveyed using the ATEEK. Students in cohort 1 ( = 45) had case exposure in both intro bio courses. Students in cohort 2 ( = 23) had case exposure in the first intro bio course but not in the second. Students in cohort 3 ( = 25) had case exposure in the second bio course but not in the first. Data points with the same letter mark within a time-point do not differ significantly (Kruskal-Wallis with post-hoc Dunn’s test). ATEEK = Assessment Tool for Evaluating Evolution Knowledge; SE = standard error.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2015 vol. 16 no. 2 157-166. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v16i2.876
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