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Concept Inventory Development Reveals Common Student Misconceptions about Microbiology

    Authors: Amy G. Briggs1,‡, Lee E. Hughes2,‡,*, Robert E. Brennan3, John Buchner4, Rachel E. A. Horak5, D. Sue Katz Amburn6, Ann H. McDonald7, Todd P. Primm8, Ann C. Smith9, Ann M. Stevens10, Sunny B. Yung8, Timothy D. Paustian11
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Beloit College, Beloit, WI 53511; 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203; 3: Department of Biology, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK 73034; 4: Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742; 5: American Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC 20036; 6: Department of Biology, Rogers State University, Claremore, OK 74017; 7: Department of Biology, Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, WI 53097; 8: Department of Biological Sciences and Professional & Academic Center for Excellence, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341; 9: Office of Undergraduate Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742; 10: Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061; 11: Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 10 March 2017 Accepted 13 June 2017 Published 30 October 2017
    • ©2017 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.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle #305220, Denton, TX 76203. Phone: 940-565-4137. E-mail: [email protected].
    • These authors contributed equally to the work.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. October 2017 vol. 18 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1319
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    Abstract:

    Misconceptions, or alternative conceptions, are incorrect understandings that students have incorporated into their prior knowledge. The goal of this study was the identification of misconceptions in microbiology held by undergraduate students upon entry into an introductory, general microbiology course. This work was the first step in developing a microbiology concept inventory based on the American Society for Microbiology’s Recommended Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology. Responses to true/false (T/F) questions accompanied by written explanations by undergraduate students at a diverse set of institutions were used to reveal misconceptions for fundamental microbiology concepts. These data were analyzed to identify the most difficult core concepts, misalignment between explanations and answer choices, and the most common misconceptions for each core concept. From across the core concepts, nineteen misconception themes found in at least 5% of the coded answers for a given question were identified. The top five misconceptions, with coded responses ranging from 19% to 43% of the explanations, are described, along with suggested classroom interventions. Identification of student misconceptions in microbiology provides a foundation upon which to understand students’ prior knowledge and to design appropriate tools for improving instruction in microbiology.

Key Concept Ranking

Bacteria and Archaea
0.589394
RNA Polymerase I
0.47676283
Horizontal Gene Transfer
0.40850624
0.589394

References & Citations

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2. Piaget J 1968 Le structuralisme [1968] Paris PUF Que Sais-Je 7
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4. Jonassen DH, Beissner K, Yacci M 1993 Structural knowledge: techniques for representing, conveying, and acquiring structural knowledge Psychology Press Abingdon, UK
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6. Smith JP III, di Sessa AA, Roschelle J 1993 Misconceptions reconceived: a constructivist analysis of knowledge in transition J Learn Sci 3 115 163 10.1207/s15327809jls0302_1 http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327809jls0302_1
7. McDonald K, Gomes J 2013 Evaluating student preparedness and conceptual change in introductory biology students studying gene expression J Transform Leadersh Policy Stud 3 21
8. Lewis J, Leach J, Wood-Robinson C 2000 What’s in a cell?—Young people’s understanding of the genetic relationship between cells, within an individual J Biol Educ 34 129 132 10.1080/00219266.2000.9655702 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00219266.2000.9655702
9. Marbach-Ad G, McAdams KC, Benson S, Briken V, Cathcart L, Chase M, El-Sayed NM, Frauwirth K, Fredericksen B, Joseph SW 2010 A model for using a concept inventory as a tool for students’ assessment and faculty professional development CBE Life Sci Educ 9 408 416 10.1187/cbe.10-05-0069 21123686 2995757 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.10-05-0069
10. Pashley M 1994 A chromosome model J Biol Educ 28 157 161 10.1080/00219266.1994.9655385 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00219266.1994.9655385
11. Wright LK, Fisk JN, Newman DL 2014 DNA → RNA: what do students think the arrow means? CBE Life Sci Educ 13 338 348 10.1187/cbe.CBE-13-09-0188 4041510 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.CBE-13-09-0188
12. Venville G, Gribble SJ, Donovan J 2005 An exploration of young children’s understandings of genetics concepts from ontological and epistemological perspectives Sci Educ 89 614 633 10.1002/sce.20061 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/sce.20061
13. Freeman S, Haak D, Wenderoth MP 2011 Increased course structure improves performance in introductory biology CBE Life Sci Educ 10 175 186 10.1187/cbe.10-08-0105 21633066 3105924 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.10-08-0105
14. Knight JK, Wood WB 2005 Teaching more by lecturing less CBE Life Sci Educ 4 298 310 10.1187/05-06-0082 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/05-06-0082
15. Momsen JL, Long TM, Wyse SA, Ebert-May D 2010 Just the facts? Introductory undergraduate biology courses focus on low-level cognitive skills CBE Life Sci Educ 9 435 440 10.1187/cbe.10-01-0001 21123690 2995761 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.10-01-0001
16. American Association for the Advancement of Science 2011 Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action: a summary of recommendations made at a national conference organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science July 15–17, 2009 Washington, DC
17. Stevens A, Hung KB, Liao MK, Merkel S, Baker N, Chang A ASM Task Force for Learning Outcomes 2014 General microbiology learning outcome examples American Society for Microbiology Washington, DC Available from: https://www.asm.org/images/Education/FINAL_Learning_Outcomes_w_title_page.pdf
18. Stevens AM, Smith AC, Marbach-Ad G, Balcom SA, Buchner J, Daniel SL, DeStefano JJ, El-Sayed NM, Frauwirth K, Lee VT, McIver KS, Melville SB, Mosser DM, Popham DL, Scharf BE, Schubot FD, Seyler RW Jr, Shields PA, Song W, Stein DC, Stewart RC, Thompson KV, Yang Z, Yarwood SA Using a concept inventory to reveal student thinking associated with common misconceptions about antibiotic resistance J Microbiol Biol Educ in press
19. Smith MK, Knight JK 2012 Using the Genetics Concept Assessment to document persistent conceptual difficulties in undergraduate genetics courses Genetics 191 21 32 10.1534/genetics.111.137810 22367036 3338261 http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/genetics.111.137810
20. Smith MK, Wood WB, Knight JK 2008 The Genetics Concept Assessment: a new concept inventory for gauging student understanding of genetics CBE Life Sci Educ 7 422 430 10.1187/cbe.08-08-0045 19047428 2592048 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.08-08-0045
21. McClary LM, Bretz SL 2012 Development and assessment of a diagnostic tool to identify organic chemistry students’ alternative conceptions related to acid strength Int J Sci Educ 34 2317 2341 10.1080/09500693.2012.684433 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2012.684433
22. Klymkowsky MW, Garvin-Doxas K 2008 Recognizing student misconceptions through Ed’s Tools and the Biology Concept Inventory PLoS Biol 6 e3 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060003 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060003
23. Garvin-Doxas K, Klymkowsky MW 2008 Understanding randomness and its impact on student learning: lessons learned from building the Biology Concept Inventory (BCI) CBE Life Sci Educ 7 227 233 10.1187/cbe.07-08-0063 18519614 2424310 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.07-08-0063
24. Meir E, Perry J, Herron JC, Kingsolver J 2007 College students’ misconceptions about evolutionary trees Am Biol Teach 69 e71 e76 10.1662/0002-7685(2007)69[71:CSMAET]2.0.CO;2 http://dx.doi.org/10.1662/0002-7685(2007)69[71:CSMAET]2.0.CO;2
25. Marbach-Ad G, Briken V, El-Sayed N, Frauwirth K, Fredericksen B, Hutcheson S, Gao LY, Joseph S, Lee VT, McIver KS, Mosser D, Quimby BB, Shields P, Song W, Stein DC, Yuan RT, Smith AC 2009 Assessing student understanding of host pathogen interactions using a concept inventory J Microbiol Biol Educ 10 43 50 10.1128/jmbe.v10.98 23653689 3577151 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v10.98
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Abstract:

Misconceptions, or alternative conceptions, are incorrect understandings that students have incorporated into their prior knowledge. The goal of this study was the identification of misconceptions in microbiology held by undergraduate students upon entry into an introductory, general microbiology course. This work was the first step in developing a microbiology concept inventory based on the American Society for Microbiology’s Recommended Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology. Responses to true/false (T/F) questions accompanied by written explanations by undergraduate students at a diverse set of institutions were used to reveal misconceptions for fundamental microbiology concepts. These data were analyzed to identify the most difficult core concepts, misalignment between explanations and answer choices, and the most common misconceptions for each core concept. From across the core concepts, nineteen misconception themes found in at least 5% of the coded answers for a given question were identified. The top five misconceptions, with coded responses ranging from 19% to 43% of the explanations, are described, along with suggested classroom interventions. Identification of student misconceptions in microbiology provides a foundation upon which to understand students’ prior knowledge and to design appropriate tools for improving instruction in microbiology.

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FIGURE 1

Core concepts used to uncover common misconceptions about microbiology.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. October 2017 vol. 18 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1319
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FIGURE 2

Concept inventory question difficulty, as measured by proportion of correct answers (true or false choice) (black bars) and correct explanations (free response to “Please explain your response”) (white bars), grouped by microbiology core concept.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. October 2017 vol. 18 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1319
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FIGURE 3

Ratio of correct explanations to correct answers for each microbiology core concept. Subjects with lower bars indicate answering correctly, but not being able to explain why. Evo = evolution; Cell = cell structure and function; Met = metabolic pathways; Gen = information flow and genetics; Sys = microbial systems; Imp = impact of microorganisms.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. October 2017 vol. 18 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1319
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FIGURE 4

Ratio of correct explanations to correct true/false answers for each concept inventory question, grouped by microbiology core concept. Horizontal bars indicate a ratio of 1:1, which would indicate an equal proportion of students providing correct answers and correct explanations (ratios < 1 indicate fewer students provided correct explanations than correct answers, and ratios > 1 indicate fewer students provided correct answers than correct explanations.)

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. October 2017 vol. 18 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1319
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