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Using Online Active-Learning Techniques to Convey Time Compensated Sun Compass Orientation in the Eastern North American Monarch

    Authors: Noah H. Green1,2,*, Douglas G. McMahon1, Cynthia Brame1,2
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235; 2: Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 02 December 2016
    • ©2016 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Vanderbilt Department of Biological Sciences, 1114 19th Avenue South, 3rd Floor, Nashville, TN 37235. Phone: 434-962-9976. E-mail: nhg432@gmail.com.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 430-435. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1149
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    Abstract:

    A common tool that animals use to navigate in a constant direction is known as “time compensated sun compass orientation.” This is a process by which animals use the position of the sun along with information from their internal circadian clocks to determine and maintain a directional heading. Many circadian scientists and educators use this process as an example of how the internal circadian clock can directly influence animal behavior. However, many students have difficulty grasping this biological process due to its multivariable nature. We have created an online module that uses the principles of active learning to facilitate student comprehension of this process. Our module contains instructional videos, practice problems and an interactive diagram. We implemented the module in an undergraduate biological clocks class at Vanderbilt University, where its use significantly improved students’ understanding of time compensated sun compass orientation as well as their ability to solve complex problems involving principles associated with this process.

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References & Citations

1. Bonwell CC, Eison JA1991Active learning: creating excitement in the classroomASHE-ERIC higher education reportWashington, DCSchool of Education and Human Development, George Washington University
2. Froy O, Gotter AL, Casselman AL, Reppert SM2003Illuminating the circadian clock in monarch butterfly migrationScience30056231303130510.1126/science.108487412764200 http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1084874
3. Kramer G1957Experiments on bird orientation and their interpretationInt J Avian Sci992196227
4. Reppert SM2007The ancestral circadian clock of monarch butterflies: role in time-compensated sun compass orientationCold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol7211311810.1101/sqb.2007.72.056 http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/sqb.2007.72.056
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1149
2016-12-02
2017-08-18

Abstract:

A common tool that animals use to navigate in a constant direction is known as “time compensated sun compass orientation.” This is a process by which animals use the position of the sun along with information from their internal circadian clocks to determine and maintain a directional heading. Many circadian scientists and educators use this process as an example of how the internal circadian clock can directly influence animal behavior. However, many students have difficulty grasping this biological process due to its multivariable nature. We have created an online module that uses the principles of active learning to facilitate student comprehension of this process. Our module contains instructional videos, practice problems and an interactive diagram. We implemented the module in an undergraduate biological clocks class at Vanderbilt University, where its use significantly improved students’ understanding of time compensated sun compass orientation as well as their ability to solve complex problems involving principles associated with this process.

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FIGURE 1

Usefulness surveys for the practice problems (A), interactive diagram (B) and instructional videos (C). Students were asked to rate how useful each aspect of the module was on a scale of 1 (no value) to 5 (very valuable).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 430-435. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1149
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FIGURE 2

Comparisons of student performance with and without use of the module on butterfly homework (A), exam #1 (B), butterfly questions on exams (C), and normalized butterfly questions on exams (D). * = < 0.05.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 430-435. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1149
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