Proposal Title

Sculpting Molecular Systems in Introductory Biology Classes

Session Type

Presentation

Room

P&A Rm 148

Start Date

July 2015

Keywords

Active learning, molecular biology, in-class activities

Primary Threads

Teaching and Learning Science

Abstract

Students often struggle to understand the complex molecular systems presented in introductory biology courses. These systems may include processes like meiosis, mitosis, the Calvin Cycle, the Krebs Cycle, electron transport chains, DNA replication, transcription and translation, among others. Traditionally, these are taught using textbook descriptions and PowerPoint slides as aids; video animations have also become popular in recent years. Students are often passive observers in these methods of instruction, relying heavily on “memorization” learning techniques. To address this issue, I have developed an in-class active-learning intervention called Molecular Sculpting where students construct working models of molecular systems out of modeling clay. In this intervention, students make 3-dimensional versions of an assigned molecular system, complete with representations of proteins, chromosomes, electrons, protons, nucleic-acids and other molecules (depending on the system). Students are then required to demonstrate how the particular molecular system operates, using the components of the system they have sculpted. The pedagogical value of this learning activity was measured in six class sessions in an introductory cell and molecular biology class during the 2014-15 academic year. Pre- and post-class minute papers showed that students were able to describe course concepts more completely after class sessions where sculpting was used compared to class sessions where sculpting was not used. Participants in this conference session will (i) sculpt a molecular system, (ii) learn how the sculpting activity can facilitate learning gains among students, and (iii) make a plan for how sculpting can be implemented in an introductory biology or chemistry course.

Elements of Engagement

Engagement elements in this presentation include...

1) Watch a brief video from a class sculpting session.

2) Sculpt a molecular system using modeling clay, with the aid of a visual guide (e.g., a handout). [All materials will be supplied by the presenter]

3) Brainstorm and discuss how to adapt the sculpting activity to meet the needs of their unique teaching situations.

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Jul 9th, 2:30 PM

Sculpting Molecular Systems in Introductory Biology Classes

P&A Rm 148

Students often struggle to understand the complex molecular systems presented in introductory biology courses. These systems may include processes like meiosis, mitosis, the Calvin Cycle, the Krebs Cycle, electron transport chains, DNA replication, transcription and translation, among others. Traditionally, these are taught using textbook descriptions and PowerPoint slides as aids; video animations have also become popular in recent years. Students are often passive observers in these methods of instruction, relying heavily on “memorization” learning techniques. To address this issue, I have developed an in-class active-learning intervention called Molecular Sculpting where students construct working models of molecular systems out of modeling clay. In this intervention, students make 3-dimensional versions of an assigned molecular system, complete with representations of proteins, chromosomes, electrons, protons, nucleic-acids and other molecules (depending on the system). Students are then required to demonstrate how the particular molecular system operates, using the components of the system they have sculpted. The pedagogical value of this learning activity was measured in six class sessions in an introductory cell and molecular biology class during the 2014-15 academic year. Pre- and post-class minute papers showed that students were able to describe course concepts more completely after class sessions where sculpting was used compared to class sessions where sculpting was not used. Participants in this conference session will (i) sculpt a molecular system, (ii) learn how the sculpting activity can facilitate learning gains among students, and (iii) make a plan for how sculpting can be implemented in an introductory biology or chemistry course.