Students' understanding of external representations of the potassium ion channel protein part II: Structure–function relationships and fragmented knowledge
Article first published online: 1 AUG 2012
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
Volume 40, Issue 6, pages 357–363, November/December 2012
How to Cite
Harle, M. and Towns, M. H. (2012), Students' understanding of external representations of the potassium ion channel protein part II: Structure–function relationships and fragmented knowledge. Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ., 40: 357–363. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20620
- Issue published online: 19 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 1 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 16 MAY 2012
- Manuscript Received: 8 MAY 2012
- National Science Foundation. Grant Number: 073694
- Visual literacy;
- tertiary education;
- scholarship of teaching and learning
Research that has focused on external representations in biochemistry has uncovered student difficulties in comprehending and interpreting external representations. This study focuses on students' understanding of three external representations (ribbon diagram, wireframe, and hydrophobic/hydrophilic) of the potassium ion channel protein. Analysis of the interview data demonstrates that students were able to use the ribbon structures and polarity of the cell membrane to help support claims about the protein's orientation and interactions within the cell membrane. Students expressed fragmented understandings of the interactions between the potassium ion and the aqueous solution outside/inside of the cell membrane. Suggestions for instruction are to probe student understanding to help students activate prior knowledge and to help them build a more connected set of concepts pertaining to protein structure and function.