Evaluating two approaches to helping college students understand evolutionary trees through diagramming tasks.
Perry J, Meir E, Herron JC, Maruca S, Stal D
Cell Biology Education (2008)
Category: teaching ¤ Added: Aug 19, 2008 ¤ Rating: ◊◊
To understand evolutionary theory, students must be able to understand and use evolutionary trees and their underlying concepts. Active, hands-on curricula relevant to macroevolution can be challenging to implement across large college-level classes where textbook learning is the norm. We evaluated two approaches to helping students learn macroevolutionary topics. Treatment 1 is a laboratory for the software program EvoBeaker designed to teach students about evolutionary trees. We tested Treatment 1 among nine college-level biology classes and administered pre/posttests to assess learning gains. We then sought to determine whether the learning gains from Treatment 1 were comparable to those derived from an alternate hands-on treatment, specifically the combination of a prerecorded lecture on DVD and paper-based activity based on Goldsmith's Great Clade Race (Treatment 2). Comparisons of pre- and posttests among participants using either Treatment 1 or 2 show large learning gains on some misconceptions and skills beyond knowledge gained from reading standard textbook entries. Both treatments performed equivalently in overall learning gains, though both had areas where they performed better or worse. Furthermore, gains among students who used Treatment 1 representing a wide range of universities suggest that outcomes are potentially applicable to a variety of "real-world" biology classes.