Research Questions

  • Can inquiry based learning techniques integrated into an interactive visualization foster deeper understanding of molecular processes?
  • Specifically, if learners are provided with tools to alter the parameters of a molecular environment (namely, directedness of motion, temperature, and crowding) does this increase their understanding of molecular behaviour?

Publication

In progress…

Highlights

  • Pretest and posttest assessments measured performance in comprehension questions directly related to topics covered in the interactive tool, and questions requiring more problem solving and knowledge transfer of any learning gained.
  • Students improved significantly on comprehension questions related to temperature and crowding, but demonstrated little improvement in transfer of knowledge to new contexts
  • Areas that did not show improvement in the assessments may indicate that there is a need for greater inquiry scaffolding and feedback during participant usage of interactive tools

Intellectual property

This project is the property of Melissa Phachanhla.

Assessing the effectiveness of an inquiry-based interactive learning tool in transforming undergraduate biology students’ understanding of emergent molecular behaviour

Contributors

Melissa Phachanhla (MScBMC student)

Jodie Jenkinson (Supervisor)

Michael Corrin (Committee member)

Gaël McGill (Committee member)

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Project summary

This study aimed to explore the effectiveness of inquiry-based learning techniques for fostering understanding of molecular dynamics and remediating students’ misconceptions regarding molecular agency.  The interactive teaching and assessment tool, Stochastic, provided learners with control over parameters such as crowding, directed movement, and temperature while simulating the binding of insulin to its membrane receptor. Users may compare their simulations against source data, modifying parameters until their simulation matches that of the source data. By visually comparing parameters such as directed movement alongside visual models of molecular randomness, it was hypothesized that users would reevaluate their understanding of molecular behaviour.

Undergraduate biology students (n=24) participated in the study. Pretest and posttest assessments measured performance in comprehension questions directly related to topics covered in the interactive tool, and questions requiring more problem solving and knowledge transfer of any learning gained. Students improved significantly on comprehension questions related to temperature and crowding (p<0.05), but demonstrated little improvement in transfer of knowledge to new contexts, or correcting prior understanding for the written portion. In the drawing portion, students demonstrated significant improvement (p<0.05) in transfer of knowledge of randomness to a diffusion/equilibrium question.

With the improvement observed, introduction of deliberate misconceptions into an interactive tool shows potential in designing for education. Areas that did not show improvement in the assessments may indicate that there is a need for greater inquiry scaffolding and feedback during participant usage of interactive tools.

Funding

SSHRC logo
Vesalius Trust logo