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I. A Concept Objective


Learning Objective 4 under the large goal of understanding evolution as a framework for all of biology:


Evolution is based on the interplay of genetic variation & environmental selection

a) Action words: build, understand, connect, link

b) Statement: Students will build on their knowledge of genetic variation to understand the mechanism by which evolution occurs via environmental selection.

c) Acceptable performance - all students should know that there are two essential components necessary for evolution to occur: genetic variation and environmental selection.  High performing students will understand the details of different types of mutations, their possible ramifications at the level of gene expression, and the range of effects on the organism, based on the environmental selection that is occurring.


When this objective is fully met students will be performing at the HOCs of Blooms: synthesis and evaluation, but foundational questions can be asked that get at the lower levels and at application to a particular dataset or conditions.



Original Q:

In what ways can mutations be 'good' or 'bad'? 

Bloom's HOCs, especially synthesis

Note: students have done a lot of formative activities to tease out their incorrect preconceived notions such as mutation = bad and evolution = selection.



A high performance level answer connects understanding of mutation at the molecular level with gene expression and the interplay between that and the environment, but students may misinterpret the question and not give a full answer even if they do understand it.


Solution: (with thanks to Jay and Janet)

Clarify a little more without delineating exactly what they need to cover, because that synthesis is the whole point.


Modified Q:

Using concrete examples including molecular detail, explain how you would determine whether a mutation is 'good' or 'bad' for a single-celled organism. 



Additional Q: (same style and level) - could be used for formative assessment

Gene X encodes a bacterial membrane protein that transports a wide range of small peptides across the cell membrane.  A deletion mutation in gene X leads to a nonfunctional transporter.  Describe scenarios in which this mutation would be

a)      deleterious to the mutant bacteria

b)     advantageous to the mutant bacteria

c)      neutral 


New Q: (T/F style, lower level: Bloom’s 2 - 3)

Because it changes an amino acid in the protein product, a missense mutation in a gene will always be deleterious to the organism.  T/F


New Q: (multiple choice style, Bloom's 3 - 4)

A single base change in a protein-coding gene in a bacterial cell could have which of the following effects? (indicate ALL that apply)

a) increased viability of the cell

b) altered sequence of the protein product

c) altered expression of the gene

d) decreased frequency of occurrence of the mutant gene in the bacterial population over time 

e) none of the above



II. A Skills Objective

Learning objective that falls under the larger course goal of developing and improving scientific/professional skills

It is important for scientists to be able to research a topic and then prepare and deliver an oral presentation on that topic to their peers.

a) Action words: research, design, articulate, organize, present, defend

b) Statement: Students will be able to design and deliver an appropriately targeted, accurate, and effective oral presentation for a scientific audience. (Bloom's HOCs)

c) Acceptable performance: all students will present a topic relevant to the course, use credible sources and cite them appropriately, provide technically accurate information, and present in an understandable way; highest performing students will do extensive research to support their arguments, will integrate multiple course concepts and link them explicitly to their research topic, and will design and present the project in a engaging way


Draft Rubric for Presentation Assignment:



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Performance Level






Cell/molecular biology topic

Cell/molecular biology topic that clearly relates to at least one class concept

Cell/molecular biology topic that clearly relates to multiple course concepts and links them together in explicit ways


One or a few small technical errors and/or points of possible confusion

No technical errors; one or a few points of possible confusion

No errors; very clear descriptions, unlikely to be any points of confusion

Presentation Design

Includes all required elements and is organized logically, THM clearly stated

All required elements, logical organization, THM clear, illustrative figures/tables, minimum text, appropriate amount and level of background

All required elements, organization, illustration, minimum text, appropriate background material, THM clearly stated, all slides support the THM, no extraneous material

Presentation Delivery

Oral presentation is audible, understandable, and within time limit; speaker refers to notes/slides minimally; speaker can answer clarification questions;

Oral presentation is audible, understandable, within time limit; speaker rarely refers to notes or slides; speaker faces audience and makes eye contact; THM is clear; speaker can answer clarification and extension questions

Oral presentation is audible, understandable, and engaging; speaker does not refer to notes or slides; speaker uses the allotted time well; speaker presents directly to the audience and seeks feedback; THM is clear and explicit; can answer clarification and extension questions


Credible sources are used and appropriately cited

Credible sources, appropriate citations; reflects current advances and historical perspective

Credible sources, appropriate citations, recent advances and historical perspective placed in the context of the larger field; logical next steps described





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