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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

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