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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
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    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: [email protected].
    • ©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.

References & Citations

1. Avery L, Wasserman I 1992 Ordering gene function: the interpretation of epistasis in regulatory hierarchies TIG 8 312 316 1365397
2. Bloom BS, Englehart MD, Furst EJ, Hill WH, Krathwohl DR 1956 A Taxonomy of Educational Objectives Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain McKay New York
3. Crouch CH, Watkins J, Fagen AP, Mazur E 2007 Peer instruction: engaging students one-on-one, all at once 1 55 Redish EF, Cooney P Reviews in Physics Education Research American Association of Physics Teachers College Park, MD
4. Griffiths AJF, et al 2000 An introduction to genetic analysis 7th edition W. H. Freeman New York
5. Perez KE, Strauss EA, Downey N, Galbraith A, Jeanne R, Cooper S 2010 Does displaying the class results affect student discussion during peer instruction? CBE Life Sci Educ 9 133 140 10.1187/cbe.09-11-0080 20516358 2879379 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.09-11-0080
6. Smith MK, Wood WB, Krauter K, Knight JK 2011 Combining peer discussion with instructor explanation increases student learning from in-class concept questions CBE Life Sci Educ 10 55 63 10.1187/cbe.10-08-0101 21364100 3046888 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.10-08-0101
7. Smith MK, et al 2009 Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions Science 323 122 124 10.1126/science.1165919 19119232 http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1165919
8. Sternberg PW 2005 Vulval development 1 28 The C. elegans Research Community WormBook http://www.wormbook.org.
9. Wang M, Sternberg PW 2001 Pattern formation during C. elegans vulval induction Curr Top Dev Biol 51 189 220 11236714

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2013-12-02
2021-01-27

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
Download as Powerpoint
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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