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The biology scholars research residency was a wondeful opportunity for me to convert my interests (education research, evidence-based teaching practices) into informed, trained practice. Last fall I taught two sections of Genetics, giving me a nice, "big" (for a PUI) sample size. At the beginning and ends of the semester I gave the students both a genetics concept inventory and a central dogma concept map assignments. I was lucky enough to find an extremely talented, interested undergraduate research assistant with interests in statistical methods with whom I could collaborate. We worked all spring semester to analyze the data I had collected. I was surprised by how much time it took to just enter all the data, grade all the assessments, and perform what seem like very preliminary, perfunctory analyses (demographic data, etc.). With this in mind, I will perhaps more carefully design my experiments in the future to limit data collected. I also think that the question I asked was too big ("what misconceptions about central dogma do students retain, and are they missed by concept inventories?"). In the future, I'd like to break this question down a bit more: I have student researchers lined up for this summer and next school year to look at optimizing concept map grading rubrics, analyzing expert versus novice performance on concept maps, etc. I hope to continue doing research in my classrooms, and in the next school year or two I hope to publish some of my work.


Figure: There is no dependence between improvement on the concept inventory and improvement on the concept map. The preliminary conclusion is that these two assessment methods are, in fact, measuring very different things. The challenge now is to tease apart what those differences are. 

Inventory vs. Map figure.jpg



Marx, Jeffrey D., and Karen Cummings. "Normalized change." American Journal of Physics 75 (2007): 87. 

McClure, John R., Brian Sonak, and Hoi K. Suen. "Concept map assessment of classroom learning: Reliability, validity, and logistical practicality." Journal of research in science teaching 36.4 (1999): 475-492. 

Smith, Michelle K., and Jennifer K. Knight. "Using the Genetics Concept Assessment to document persistent conceptual difficulties in undergraduate genetics courses." Genetics 191.1 (2012): 21-32. 

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