Limits...
A study assessing the potential of negative effects in interdisciplinary math-biology instruction.

Madlung A, Bremer M, Himelblau E, Tullis A - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

Bottom Line: We have developed and assessed an integrative learning module and found disciplinary learning gains to be equally strong in first-year students who actively engaged in embedded quantitative calculations as in those students who were merely presented with quantitative data in the context of interpreting biological and biostatistical results.When presented to advanced biology students, our quantitative learning tool increased test performance significantly.We conclude from our study that the addition of mathematical calculations to the first year and advanced biology curricula did not hinder overall student learning, and may increase disciplinary learning and data interpretation skills in advanced students.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Biological Science, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, USA. amadlung@pugetsound.edu

ABSTRACT
There is increasing enthusiasm for teaching approaches that combine mathematics and biology. The call for integrating more quantitative work in biology education has led to new teaching tools that improve quantitative skills. Little is known, however, about whether increasing interdisciplinary work can lead to adverse effects, such as the development of broader but shallower skills or the possibility that math anxiety causes some students to disengage in the classroom, or, paradoxically, to focus so much on the mathematics that they lose sight of its application for the biological concepts in the center of the unit at hand. We have developed and assessed an integrative learning module and found disciplinary learning gains to be equally strong in first-year students who actively engaged in embedded quantitative calculations as in those students who were merely presented with quantitative data in the context of interpreting biological and biostatistical results. When presented to advanced biology students, our quantitative learning tool increased test performance significantly. We conclude from our study that the addition of mathematical calculations to the first year and advanced biology curricula did not hinder overall student learning, and may increase disciplinary learning and data interpretation skills in advanced students.

Show MeSH
Example from the microarray learning module for the advanced students in the Plant Molecular Biology and Physiology course. The problem shown in panel (A) parallels that shown in Figure 1, A and B, for first-year biology students. The corresponding assessment questions are shown in (B). Complete classroom material can be fo- und at www.polyploidy.org/index.php/ Microarray_analysis.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection


getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3046887&req=5

Figure 2: Example from the microarray learning module for the advanced students in the Plant Molecular Biology and Physiology course. The problem shown in panel (A) parallels that shown in Figure 1, A and B, for first-year biology students. The corresponding assessment questions are shown in (B). Complete classroom material can be fo- und at www.polyploidy.org/index.php/ Microarray_analysis.

Mentions: We made a few minor adjustments to the module developed for first-year students described previously to make it appropriate for a smaller class of advanced biology students. The first modification concerned the time when the module was administered during the course. The module was administered to advanced students following several weeks of molecular biology instruction, and after they had gained some wet-lab experience in microarray work. The second modification was necessitated by the smaller number of total students in the advanced course as compared with the introductory course. Whereas we were able to make side-by-side comparisons between control and experimental groups in the introductory course, the small sample size in the advanced course restricted us to a pre- and posttreatment experimental design. Although this experimental design enabled us to gauge the effectiveness of the assignment in enhancing understanding, it precluded us from assessing differences between a treatment and control group. Finally, to ensure the largest possible sample size, the statistics assignment was administered to advanced students as a computer exercise during the regularly scheduled lab section of the course, instead of as a take-home assignment as was the case for the introductory students. Students downloaded the worksheets and instructions on individual laptops and worked independently in class. The professor intervened only as needed to help with the downloading, to clarify the written instructions, and to collect the completed exercise at the end of the class. Importantly, even though the exercise was administered in class rather than as a take-home assignment, it was not an instructor-led exercise; students worked as independently as they would have if it had been a take-home assignment. Figure 2A shows a portion of this exercise.


A study assessing the potential of negative effects in interdisciplinary math-biology instruction.

Madlung A, Bremer M, Himelblau E, Tullis A - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

Example from the microarray learning module for the advanced students in the Plant Molecular Biology and Physiology course. The problem shown in panel (A) parallels that shown in Figure 1, A and B, for first-year biology students. The corresponding assessment questions are shown in (B). Complete classroom material can be fo- und at www.polyploidy.org/index.php/ Microarray_analysis.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3046887&req=5

Figure 2: Example from the microarray learning module for the advanced students in the Plant Molecular Biology and Physiology course. The problem shown in panel (A) parallels that shown in Figure 1, A and B, for first-year biology students. The corresponding assessment questions are shown in (B). Complete classroom material can be fo- und at www.polyploidy.org/index.php/ Microarray_analysis.
Mentions: We made a few minor adjustments to the module developed for first-year students described previously to make it appropriate for a smaller class of advanced biology students. The first modification concerned the time when the module was administered during the course. The module was administered to advanced students following several weeks of molecular biology instruction, and after they had gained some wet-lab experience in microarray work. The second modification was necessitated by the smaller number of total students in the advanced course as compared with the introductory course. Whereas we were able to make side-by-side comparisons between control and experimental groups in the introductory course, the small sample size in the advanced course restricted us to a pre- and posttreatment experimental design. Although this experimental design enabled us to gauge the effectiveness of the assignment in enhancing understanding, it precluded us from assessing differences between a treatment and control group. Finally, to ensure the largest possible sample size, the statistics assignment was administered to advanced students as a computer exercise during the regularly scheduled lab section of the course, instead of as a take-home assignment as was the case for the introductory students. Students downloaded the worksheets and instructions on individual laptops and worked independently in class. The professor intervened only as needed to help with the downloading, to clarify the written instructions, and to collect the completed exercise at the end of the class. Importantly, even though the exercise was administered in class rather than as a take-home assignment, it was not an instructor-led exercise; students worked as independently as they would have if it had been a take-home assignment. Figure 2A shows a portion of this exercise.

Bottom Line: We have developed and assessed an integrative learning module and found disciplinary learning gains to be equally strong in first-year students who actively engaged in embedded quantitative calculations as in those students who were merely presented with quantitative data in the context of interpreting biological and biostatistical results.When presented to advanced biology students, our quantitative learning tool increased test performance significantly.We conclude from our study that the addition of mathematical calculations to the first year and advanced biology curricula did not hinder overall student learning, and may increase disciplinary learning and data interpretation skills in advanced students.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Biological Science, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, USA. amadlung@pugetsound.edu

ABSTRACT
There is increasing enthusiasm for teaching approaches that combine mathematics and biology. The call for integrating more quantitative work in biology education has led to new teaching tools that improve quantitative skills. Little is known, however, about whether increasing interdisciplinary work can lead to adverse effects, such as the development of broader but shallower skills or the possibility that math anxiety causes some students to disengage in the classroom, or, paradoxically, to focus so much on the mathematics that they lose sight of its application for the biological concepts in the center of the unit at hand. We have developed and assessed an integrative learning module and found disciplinary learning gains to be equally strong in first-year students who actively engaged in embedded quantitative calculations as in those students who were merely presented with quantitative data in the context of interpreting biological and biostatistical results. When presented to advanced biology students, our quantitative learning tool increased test performance significantly. We conclude from our study that the addition of mathematical calculations to the first year and advanced biology curricula did not hinder overall student learning, and may increase disciplinary learning and data interpretation skills in advanced students.

Show MeSH