Context-based Learning of Genetics by Means of Authentic Practice

Context-based Learning of Genetics by Means of Authentic Practice
Research reveals that developing a meaningful multileveled understanding of molecular genetics is challenging for students. An unexplored approach to fostering this scientific understanding is the use of “real world” context-based learning modules within this domain. The main objective of this mixed-methods study was to determine if students who participated in a comprehensive genetics unit, entirely contextualized in “the day and the life of a designer snake breeder”, developed a deeper understanding of molecular genetics across levels of biological organization when compared to those exposed to traditional approaches. One biology class served as the traditional comparison group while the other, the experimental, participated in the authentic practice of genetics via snake breeding. Both groups were administered the Genetics Concept Assessment (GCA) as a pre-/post-test measure and, as well, a post Genetics Attitude Survey; furthermore, four randomly selected students from each group were interviewed before and after the intervention to measure learning gains. While the results of the GCA revealed no growth in either test group—suggesting that the test was too difficult for these students—the quantitatively transformed interview data suggests that students learning by means of authentic practice developed a more sophisticated understanding of the multileveled nature of molecular genetics than those that experienced traditional instruction. Interview participants of the experimental group were better able to connect multileveled genetic concepts addressed in both Card Sort and GCA interviews. The results from the experimental group’s Genetics Attitude Survey suggest that the students valued learning via the context of snake breeding.


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