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Abstract Detail


Kummer, Tyler [1], Jensen, Jamie [1], Whipple, Clinton [1].

Addressing common and persistent tree-thinking misconceptions in a plant diversity course.

Evolution has been succinctly described as descent with modification. Thus there are two fundamental parts to evolutionary theory that students are required to understand: descent from a common ancestor and mechanisms of divergence. While the traditional biology and evolution curriculum has focused on mechanisms of divergence (e.g. mutation, selection, migration, drift), comparatively little attention is given to understanding common descent and the most frequent representation of descent, the phylogenetic tree. This is unfortunate given that recent research suggests that most students harbor deep misconceptions that directly affect their ability to properly interpret phylogenetic trees. We have developed a concept inventory to quickly assess the presence of the most common tree-thinking misconceptions, and show that many persist throughout the education of biology majors, even after semester capstone course on evolution. We reasoned that explicit instruction in tree-thinking could help overcome these misconceptions, and implemented several active learning modules into a plant diversity course. Results from this intervention, compared to a section without a similar focus on tree-thinking, demonstrate that even the most persistent misconceptions can be ameliorated, without a drop in content knowledge. Our results suggest that tree-thinking can be taught effectively in a diversity course to address a current weakness many biology curricula.

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1 - Brigham Young University, Biology, 4102 Life Science Building, Provo, UT, 84602, USA

tree thinking
concept inventory
Plant Biodiversity.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: 18, Teaching Section Papers Session I
Location: 101/Savannah International Trade and Convention Center
Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
Time: 10:30 AM
Number: 18010
Abstract ID:737
Candidate for Awards:None

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