Discipline-Based Education Research Group


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DBER Group Discussion on 2015‐10‐15


Copyright (c) 2015 Heather E. Bergan‐Roller, Nicholas Galt, Tomáš Helikar, and Joseph T. Dauer.


Systems thinking, computational modeling, and simulating systems are examples of important skills stressed in life sciences education by Vision and Change. In response to these calls, we have designed a computational modeling and simulation‐driven intervention to supplement current instruction in the life sciences curriculum. As part of our pre‐intervention assessment we evaluated students on their systems thinking in the context of cellular respiration. For this assessment, we had students create conceptual models. We found that students with lecture instruction are able to recall more components associated with the cellular respiration process but are not better able to integrate these components into the system compared to students without lecture instruction. As a result, we have designed computational interventions to facilitate learning about complex biological processes. In these activities, we have students make and test predictions and apply simulation results to cellular mechanisms. We then assess student thinking to examine if the computational intervention improves systems thinking and modeling skills. Our preliminary data suggest that this intervention increases students’ mechanistic reasoning abilities. Currently, we are deploying computational activities and assessing students thinking on the topics of cellular respiration and gene regulation in all LIFE 120 laboratories. Finally, we are in the process of developing new computational activities to be used as learning tools for additional topics on complex biological systems