1887

Positioning Genomics in Biology Education: Content Mapping of Undergraduate Biology Textbooks

    Authors: Naomi L. B. Wernick1,2,*, Eric Ndung’u3, Dominique Haughton3, Fred D. Ledley1
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, Bentley University, Waltham, MA 02452; 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell, MA 01854; 3: Department of Mathematical Sciences, Bentley University, Waltham, MA 02452
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 15 December 2014
    • Supplemental materials available at http://jmbe.asm.org
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell, One University Ave., Lowell, MA 01854. Tel: 978-934-3506. Fax: 978-934-3044. E-mail: [email protected].
    • ©2014 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 268-276. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.724
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    Abstract:

    Biological thought increasingly recognizes the centrality of the genome in constituting and regulating processes ranging from cellular systems to ecology and evolution. In this paper, we ask whether genomics is similarly positioned as a core concept in the instructional sequence for undergraduate biology. Using quantitative methods, we analyzed the order in which core biological concepts were introduced in textbooks for first-year general and human biology. Statistical analysis was performed using self-organizing map algorithms and conventional methods to identify clusters of terms and their relative position in the books. General biology textbooks for both majors and nonmajors introduced genome-related content after text related to cell biology and biological chemistry, but before content describing higher-order biological processes. However, human biology textbooks most often introduced genomic content near the end of the books. These results suggest that genomics is not yet positioned as a core concept in commonly used textbooks for first-year biology and raises questions about whether such textbooks, or courses based on the outline of these textbooks, provide an appropriate foundation for understanding contemporary biological science.

Key Concept Ranking

Gene Expression and Regulation
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Signal Transduction
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References & Citations

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2014-12-15
2019-10-24

Abstract:

Biological thought increasingly recognizes the centrality of the genome in constituting and regulating processes ranging from cellular systems to ecology and evolution. In this paper, we ask whether genomics is similarly positioned as a core concept in the instructional sequence for undergraduate biology. Using quantitative methods, we analyzed the order in which core biological concepts were introduced in textbooks for first-year general and human biology. Statistical analysis was performed using self-organizing map algorithms and conventional methods to identify clusters of terms and their relative position in the books. General biology textbooks for both majors and nonmajors introduced genome-related content after text related to cell biology and biological chemistry, but before content describing higher-order biological processes. However, human biology textbooks most often introduced genomic content near the end of the books. These results suggest that genomics is not yet positioned as a core concept in commonly used textbooks for first-year biology and raises questions about whether such textbooks, or courses based on the outline of these textbooks, provide an appropriate foundation for understanding contemporary biological science.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1.

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FIGURE 1.

Kohonen map showing clustering of 79 metaterms in 25 introductory biology textbooks. A) This set of 79 metaterms represents concepts commonly found in first courses of undergraduate biology, with an emphasis on terms related to human biology and genomics. Three clusters of metaterms were identified through SOM analysis of 25 introductory biology textbooks. Metaterms circled in blue (Cluster A) include mostly introductory content. Metaterms circled in red (Cluster B) include mostly genome-related content. Metaterms circled in green (Cluster C) include content describing organ systems. Lines within each cluster are included to denote metaterms that mapped to distinct nodes. Terms that did not map within any of the three major clusters are indicated as non-clustering metaterms. The two-letter code for each metaterm is included (Fig. 1B). B) This Kohonen map consists of alternating hexagons denoting nodes that represent individual or groups of metaterms, as well as intermediate hexagons that represent the distance between nodes. The color of each hexagon indicates the distance between adjacent nodes, with blue indicating close proximity and red indicating maximal distance. Metaterms, indicated by their two-letter code, are positioned by the SOM analysis so as to minimize the distances between terms in a projection of the 79 dimensional vectors representing each book onto the two dimensional lattice. Three clusters of closely linked nodes are highlighted. Those circled in blue (Cluster A) include metaterms associated with introductory content. Those circled in red (Cluster B) include genome-related content. Those circled in green (Cluster C) consist of content describing organ systems. The full designation of each metaterm is shown in Figure 1A.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 268-276. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.724
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Image of FIGURE 2.

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FIGURE 2.

Position of metaterms in textbooks for first courses in undergraduate biology. A) Position of metaterms in textbooks for human biology (HB). B) Position of metaterms in textbooks for majors general biology (MGB). C) Position of metaterms in textbooks for nonmajors general biology (NMGB). In each panel, the position of each metaterm is given as the average page number where content associated with that metaterm is introduced divided by the total number of pages in the book. Rank order is determined based on ordering of average metaterm positions. Blue bars, red bars and green bars indicate the position of cluster A, cluster B, and cluster C, respectively. In panel B (majors general biology) and C (nonmajors general biology) bars cover greater than 95% of metaterms in the cluster. In panel A, the green and red bars cover 70% of metaterms in those clusters.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 268-276. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.724
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Image of FIGURE 3.

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FIGURE 3.

Correlation of metaterm positions in three categories of textbooks. A) Regression analysis comparing positioning of metaterms in MGB and NMGB textbooks. B) Regression analysis comparing positioning of metaterms in MGB and HB books. Two nonlinear clusters of metaterms highlighted (panel B) correspond to metaterms associated with cluster B (red circle) and metaterms associated with cluster C (green circle).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 268-276. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.724
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Image of FIGURE 4.

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FIGURE 4.

Page positions of metaterms in general biology textbooks for majors and nonmajors. The average and standard deviation of page numbers for metaterms in MGB and NMGB books were plotted against the rank order position of these terms in MGB books. The red bar indicating the position of cluster B metaterms and the green bar indicating the position of cluster C metaterms each cover 90% of the metaterms associated with those clusters ( Fig. 1 ).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 268-276. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.724
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Image of FIGURE 5.

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FIGURE 5.

Correlation of metaterm positions in pairs of books by the same author for different courses. A) Regression analysis comparing positioning of metaterms in HB and NMGB books by the same author. B) Regression analysis comparing positioning of metaterms in MGB and NMGB books by the same author. Two highlighted nonlinear clusters of metaterms (panel A) correspond to metaterms associated with cluster B (red circle) and metaterms associated with cluster C (green circle).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 268-276. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.724
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