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Scaffolding Activities Increase Performance and Lower Frustration with Genotype-to-Evolution Models in Molecular Genetics

    Author: Kristy Wilson1
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Marian University, Indianapolis, IN 46222
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. November 2020 vol. 21 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i3.2033
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    Abstract:

    Conceptual modeling was introduced in molecular genetics so students could integrate topics and apply molecular reasoning and mechanisms to phenotype, inheritance, and population dynamics. Structure Mechanism Relationship Function (SMRF) models were introduced. SMRF models focus on the function of a specified system using structures/nouns in boxes and processes/relationships/verbs on arrows. This SMRF model formatting enables discussion, feedback, and assessment.  Scaffolding activities were introduced to provide students with support for modeling and were intended to decrease or prevent students’ frustration, intimidation, and discouragement during the learning process.  Comparing a semester without scaffolding activities to semesters with scaffolding results indicate the following benefits: 1) better performance on modeling on first exam, 2) less student resistance towards modeling, and 3) better use of class time.  This article has the training activity for SMRF modeling, scaffolding activities, a grading rubric, and selection of adaptable question prompts to make conceptual modeling more accessible to instructors.

References & Citations

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2. Wilson KJ, Long TM, Momsen JL, Bray Speth E 2020 Evidence-based teaching guides: modeling in the classroom—making systems and relationships visible CBE Life Sci Educ 19 fe1 10.1187/cbe.19-11-0255 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.19-11-0255
3. Marbach-Ad G 2001 Attempting to break the code in student comprehension of genetic concepts J Biol Educ 35 183 189 10.1080/00219266.2001.9655775 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00219266.2001.9655775
4. Lira ME, Gardner SM 2017 Structure-function relations in physiology education: where’s the mechanism? Adv Physiol Educ 41 270 278 10.1152/advan.00175.2016 28442480 http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/advan.00175.2016
5. Dauer JT, Momsen JL, Bray Speth E, Makohon-Moore SC, Long TM 2013 Analyzing change in students’ gene-to-evolution models in college-level introductory biology J Res Sci Teach 50 639 659 10.1002/tea.21094 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.21094
6. Dauer JT, Long TM 2015 Long-term conceptual retrieval by college biology majors following model-based instruction J Res Sci Teach 52 1188 1206 10.1002/tea.21258 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.21258
7. Hmelo-Silver CE, Pfeffer MG 2004 Comparing expert and novice understanding of a complex system from the perspective of structures, behaviors, and functions Cogn Sci 28 127 138 10.1207/s15516709cog2801_7 http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15516709cog2801_7
8. Reinagel A, Bray Speth E 2016 Beyond the central dogma model-based learning of how genes determine phenotypes CBE Life Sci Educ 15 ar4 10.1187/cbe.15-04-0105 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.15-04-0105
9. Bray Speth E, Shaw N, Momsen J, Reinagel A, Le P, Taqieddin R, Long T 2014 Introductory biology students’ conceptual models and explanations of the origin of variation CBE Life Sci Educ 13 529 539 10.1187/cbe.14-02-0020 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.14-02-0020
10. Offerdahl EG, Arneson JB, Byrne N 2017 Lighten the load: scaffolding visual literacy in biochemistry and molecular biology CBE Life Sci Educ 16 es1 10.1187/cbe.16-06-0193 28130273 5332056 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.16-06-0193
11. Hobbs FC, Johnson DJ, Kearns KD 2013 A deliberate practice approach to teaching phylogenetic analysis CBE Life Sci Educ 12 676 686 10.1187/cbe-13-03-0046 24297294 3846518 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe-13-03-0046
12. Christian N, Kearns KD 2018 Using scaffolding and deliberate practice to improve abstract writing in an introductory biology laboratory course J Microbiol Biol Educ 19 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1564 10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1564 30197726 6113659 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1564
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2020-11-12
2020-12-01

Abstract:

Conceptual modeling was introduced in molecular genetics so students could integrate topics and apply molecular reasoning and mechanisms to phenotype, inheritance, and population dynamics. Structure Mechanism Relationship Function (SMRF) models were introduced. SMRF models focus on the function of a specified system using structures/nouns in boxes and processes/relationships/verbs on arrows. This SMRF model formatting enables discussion, feedback, and assessment.  Scaffolding activities were introduced to provide students with support for modeling and were intended to decrease or prevent students’ frustration, intimidation, and discouragement during the learning process.  Comparing a semester without scaffolding activities to semesters with scaffolding results indicate the following benefits: 1) better performance on modeling on first exam, 2) less student resistance towards modeling, and 3) better use of class time.  This article has the training activity for SMRF modeling, scaffolding activities, a grading rubric, and selection of adaptable question prompts to make conceptual modeling more accessible to instructors.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1

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FIGURE 1

Example of Exam 1 SMRF model drawn by a student and then digitally transcribed using CmapTools.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. November 2020 vol. 21 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i3.2033
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Scaffolding activities increase student performance on SMRF model formatting and inclusion of question context. These data from 2016 ( = 16) and 2017–2019 ( = 20 randomly selected SMRF models each) from Exam 1 were evaluated by the instructor. Data presented in box-and-whisker plot were calculated using GraphPad Prism and the Tukey method of calculation. Statistical significance was calculated in GraphPad using a one-way analysis of variance with Tukey’s multiple-comparison test. The median is represented by the midline, the 25% confidence intervals by the boxes, and ranges of scores by the whiskers. Multiple-comparison test revealed that 2016 vs. 2018 and 2016 vs. 2019 were statistically different.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. November 2020 vol. 21 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i3.2033
Download as Powerpoint
Image of FIGURE 3

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FIGURE 3

Scaffolding activities are rated as effective and may decrease student-perceived difficulty of modeling. (A and B) Data from 2020 immediately following administration of exam 1 ( = 42). (A) Student-rated effectiveness of scaffolding activities represented by the percentage of students reporting moderate to extremely effective activities. (B) Representative quotes in answer to the question “Were graded assignments to complete the Exam 1 SMRF practice questions helpful for you to learn how to model? Why or why not?” (C) These data from 2016 ( = 15) and 2018 ( = 40) were taken from the end-of-semester survey, which asked about the difficulty of SMRF modeling tasks at the beginning of the course. The scale is 1 (extremely easy) to 5 (extremely difficult), i.e., the perceived difficulty of the task is lower when average ratings are lower.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. November 2020 vol. 21 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i3.2033
Download as Powerpoint

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