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Thinking Like A Biologist

Project Description

This website presents materials and results from NSF supported work on Diagnostic Question Clusters to Improve Student Reasoning and Understanding in General Biology Courses.  The website provides access to the Diagnostic Question Clusters and active learning strategies associated with the questions plus the pedagogical and research context for these materials.

We have targeted two challenges to the teaching of General Biology:

1) Most students do not address biological questions with the principles? and reasoning used by biologists and

2) Most faculty do not teach students how to use the principles and to think like practicing biologists. The project centers on a set of interrelated Diagnostic Question Clusters (DQCs) designed to "hook" biology faculty to question and learn about their students' understanding of core biological concepts and ways of thinking about biology.

The DQCs we focus on here concern tracing energy and matter through 3 levels biological complexity (atomic/molecular/cellular, organism and ecosystem).

Faculty development is a core aspect of the project. For the two projects 30 faculty from a range of institutions work in teams and use the DQCs and associated teaching activities in their biology courses. How these faculty use and modify these resources is studied to gain insight about the utility of DQCs to change introductory biology teaching in a variety of settings.

The DQC component of this project is based on research at Michigan State University which aims to:

1) Identify biological content problematic for students,

2) Identify problematic patterns in students' thinking, and

3) Frame content in ways that help students develop more robust understanding in biology.

By analyzing students' responses to diagnostic questions about core biological concepts and ideas, the DQC researchers use these problematic patterns in students' thinking to frame content in ways that lead to systematic approaches to biology content and ultimately to better understanding of core biological concepts, ideas and information.

The project is supported by grants from the Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement program at the National Science Foundation (No. DUE 0736943 and 0920186).