Discipline-Based Education Research Group


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Abstract for DBER Group Discussion on 2014‐03‐06


Copyright (c) 2014 Joseph Dauer


The recent AAAS call to improve undergraduate biology education suggested university instruction should focus on teaching core concepts like matter and energy, evolution, and systems and core competences like quantitative reasoning, modeling and integrating disciplines. My research has focused on how undergraduate biology students organize their knowledge of biological systems and how they reason about the myriad interactions and potential outcomes inherent to these systems. I will report ongoing research into students’ model construction during an introductory biology course and during clinical interviews 2 years after the course. My colleagues and I have found students’ models change dramatically in both quantity and quality of biological relationships during the course. We believe this change in model quality comes from cognitive restructuring as students change from linear thinkers to more systemic thinkers. The enduring effect of model construction is manifest when, after a couple of years, some students are able to use the structure of their mental model to assist in recalling missing details and to apply their mental model to a new scenario. Model construction in Introductory Biology may be a useful tool as we strive to increase students’ understanding of biological interactions and stochasticity.