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Higher education science researchers have postulated that understanding variation is a threshold concept in biology. Variation is evident in all living organisms yet is often overlooked as important or impactful in the process of natural selection. This study explores the idea that understanding the mechanisms and outcomes of genetic variation is a threshold concept for understanding the consequences of that variation, in particular evolution by natural selection. A group of undergraduate students (N=104) from a small, liberal arts university in California answered questions about the mechanisms of genetic variation, the outcomes of genetic variation and the consequences of genetic variation to determine which, if any, of the topics were mastered by students. All students had recently completed one of three introductory biology courses that taught evolution by natural selection. One of the courses was composed of science majors while the other two courses were comprised of non-science majors. If students earned an 80% or higher average on any one of the topics, the author considered that mastery had been achieved. A Kendall’s tau was calculated for each pair of topics: mechanisms/outcomes, outcomes/consequences and consequences/mechanisms. It was determined that there was only a statistically significant positive correlation between non-science majors understanding of the mechanisms and consequences of genetic variation. These exploratory findings suggest that mechanisms and outcomes of variation may not be a threshold concept for consequences of variation for this participant group.
This collection consists of theses for the Master of Science in General Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University. These items were provided to the library by their authors with the permission required to make them freely available for access. These works remain the intellectual property of their authors.