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Open Vessels Waiting to Be Filled? Assessing Students’ Understanding of Molecular Genetics as They Enter and Exit the Classroom 

B.B. Stone.University of Missouri, Columbia, MO.

 

It is important to establish what students know, where they are confused and where knowledge is completely lacking before designing instructional strategies. The purpose of this project was three fold: 1) assess students’ prior knowledge in molecular genetics, including uncovering misconceptions and their sources, 2) assess the effectiveness of teaching strategies and 3) measure students’ basic attitudes. Toward these goals, students in a non-majors introductory biology lecture course completed pre- and post-instructional assessments on basic concepts in molecular genetics. The tools measured their understanding, their confidence in that understanding and their general attitudes. These tools uncovered several misconceptions, including confidence that a gene (56%) or a chromosome (66%) was either one base or base pair on the DNA ladder and that different cells in the same person will have different genes (62%) or DNA sequence (72%). In spite of these extreme examples, the results indicated that for many concepts students simply did not know. The post-test results improved with 98% of the students answering that all of a person’s cells have the same DNA and genes but express different genes. Other concepts continued to be difficult for students, especially those relating to the structure of DNA. Students indicated several sources used to formulate their responses on both the pre- and post-assessment that may help explain these results. Understanding this information will help educators develop educational tools to target troublesome concepts.

 

Bethany Stone

(573) 882-3494

stoneb@missouri.edu

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Viewing 6 of 6 comments: view all
Hi Bethany,
A clear exposition of the problem and the improvement in post testing, which is good. However, while you give post test data to indicate that the teaching strategies were successful in one question, you haven't described what the teaching strategies were. To me the important part of your abstract comes across as the pretests that you developed. Is this what you wanted? I am uncertain as to what you mean in the second last sentence. What are the sources that students used?
Posted 10:02, 15 Feb 2009
Greetings Bethany,

I agree with Chris. Look carefully at your second sentence. You give three purposes for the study. In the rest of your absgract you only provide data and discussion for the first one - assessing prior knowledge. You do no have data that says anything about the effectiveness of teaching strategies or their attitudes. You state that your survey looks at attitudes, but no data is presented. I might delete the 2nd and 3rd purposes for the study and just focus on the first one.
Posted 08:07, 17 Feb 2009
Hey there critical friend! I see what Alix is saying about the three purposes of your study, but I would suggest keeping the first two and adding some information about the teaching strategies. One of the interesting parts of your study is how you address the misconceptions students have regarding molecular genetics. The end of the semester analysis of their understanding gives some insight as to how effective the teaching strategies were in addressing their misconceptions. And I also don't know what you mean by "Students indicated several sources used to formulate their responses."
Posted 09:56, 17 Feb 2009
Hello Bethany,
Hard to agree with both Alix and Carol as they recomend different approaches. I would go with the advice Alix gave if you cannot incorporate Carol's suggestion within the alloted space for the abstract. You are not giving anything up because you can explore the others on the poster however for the short space of the abstract give the best cohesive story you have and explore the rest in an introduction section of the poster. Just a thought. Sherri edited 12:27, 17 Feb 2009
Posted 12:26, 17 Feb 2009
Hi Bethany,
Here are my two cents and of course that is with no experience in this field. For me the biggest challenge in following your abstract was keeping up with many different ideas you present in each sentence. Without reading the rest of your work it is hard for me to sugget what to cut and what to retain but when you say the purpose of this project was three fold, what follows to me sounds like three independent projects on their own. Those three statements cover a huge range of possible specific focus areas and it is hard to see which one you focused on in the work. Then you follow it with very very specific examples, but of course because there is limited space in the abstract you end up having to choose only one thing. So I guess my biggest suggestion would be to narrow down your introductory focus a bit and expand your findings to be a little bit more representative of a category of finding. Like if the purpose was to identify misconceptions about genes then the finding might be their misconceptions on genes on the average improved this much with a range of this to this in specific areas within this concept.
Posted 19:31, 17 Feb 2009
Thank you, All, for your valuable comments! Here is the updated version of the abstract:

It is important to establish what students know, where they are confused and where knowledge is completely lacking before designing instructional strategies. The primary purpose of this project was to assess students’ prior knowledge in molecular genetics, including uncovering misconceptions and their sources. Another goal was to evaluate various teaching strategies. To do this, students in a non-majors introductory biology lecture course completed pre- and post-instructional assessments on basic concepts in molecular genetics. The tools measured their understanding, their confidence in that understanding, sources (other classes, books, TV, news, etc.) and their general attitudes. Results from Fall, 2008 uncovered several misconceptions. The majority of students had confidence that a gene or a chromosome was either one base or base pair on the DNA ladder and that different cells in the same person will have different genes or DNA sequence. For many other concepts students lacked confidence in their answers. Students indicated most of their prior understanding came from high school and/or TV sources (news, sitcoms, dramas). The post-test results improved with majority of students answering that all of a person’s cells have the same DNA and genes but express different genes. Other concepts continued to be difficult for students, especially those relating to the structure of DNA. The effectiveness of various teaching strategies is currently being assessed and will be detailed in the poster. Understanding this information will help educators develop educational tools to target troublesome concepts.
Posted 16:15, 20 Feb 2009
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