Date of this Version
CBE—Life Sciences Education • 20:ar13, 1–16, (Spring 2021)
Understanding metabolic function requires knowledge of the dynamics, interdependence, and regulation of metabolic networks. However, multiple professional societies have recognized that most undergraduate biochemistry students acquire only a surface-level understanding of metabolism. We hypothesized that guiding students through interactive computer simulations of metabolic systems would increase their ability to recognize how individual interactions between components affect the behavior of a system under different conditions. The computer simulations were designed with an interactive activity (i.e., module) that used the predict–observe–explain model of instruction to guide students through a process in which they iteratively predict outcomes, test their predictions, modify the interactions of the system, and then retest the outcomes. We found that biochemistry students using modules performed better on metabolism questions compared with students who did not use the modules. The average learning gain was 8% with modules and 0% without modules, a small to medium effect size. We also confirmed that the modules did not create or reinforce a gender bias. Our modules provide instructors with a dynamic, systems-driven approach to help students learn about metabolic regulation and equip students with important cognitive skills, such as interpreting and analyzing simulation results, and technical skills, such as building and simulating computer-based models.