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Keywords:

  • Biology education;
  • active learning;
  • chromosome modeling;
  • haploid;
  • diploid

Abstract

Chromosome structure is confusing to students at all levels, and chromosome behavior during meiosis is a notoriously difficult topic. Undergraduate biology majors are exposed to the process of meiosis numerous times during their presecondary and postsecondary education, yet understanding of key concepts, such as the point at which haploidy is established, does not improve substantially with repeated exposure. Based on student's drawings, 96% of intermediate-level biology majors have unclear or incorrect ideas about meiosis. Students have difficulty diagramming the process of meiosis starting with three unreplicated pairs of chromosomes, and even when they can produce an accurate diagram, they are unclear how to assign the terms “haploid” and “diploid.” We designed an interactive lesson based on constructivist theory to address these issues in a large lecture class. Pretest and posttest scores showed a significant improvement in students' understanding of ploidy compared to a parallel class taught in the traditional way (e.g. using the textbook diagrams). In interviews afterward, those students whose scores improved on exams specifically pointed to the features of the in-class modeling that were deliberately incorporated for that purpose. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education Vol. 39, No. 5, pp. 344–351, 2011