significant difference was found between the average post-assessment
performance of URM students compared with that of non-URM students. This result suggests that the instruction that occurred
between the pre- and post-assessment may have disproportionately
and positively affected URM students, which resulted in reduction
of the performance gap that existed between URM and non-URM
students prior to instruction. In post-assessment regression modeling, only comprehensive ACT score and college GPA at the beginning of term emerged as predictive variables of post-assessment
performance. These variables were not significant predictors on the
pre-assessment. This result indicates that students with stronger
incoming academic performance metrics outperform their relatively
academically less successful peers, regardless of the instructional
Given that the two treatment groups in this study were well
matched with regard to sample size, incoming performance metrics,
and known demographics, we conclude that both modeling exercises were equally effective in supporting student learning. Since
there is no difference in performance due to instruction, the selection of the modeling activity used to support student learning can
be made on the basis of other criteria, such as instructor preference,
physical classroom layout, or available supplies. While our pretest
and posttest assessments were separated by several weeks, our study
is limited in that we were not able to assess whether the learning
gains persisted over a longer period ( i.e., a semester or more after
instruction). Therefore, we cannot eliminate the possibility that
one of these approaches may result in greater longitudinal retention.
While the performance data did not support a difference in learning gains between the two instructional approaches implemented, the
Likert-scale student perception data we collected indicated a significant difference in student-perceived helpfulness: students who participated in the pipe-cleaner modeling (section B) indicated higher
agreement with the statement “Modeling mitosis and meiosis in class
helped me understand the process of cell division” as compared to
students who experienced the sock modeling (section A). Content
analysis of student responses to free-response items suggest that the
modeling activity using socks would benefit from additional structure,
as students in section A more frequently cited being confused by the
instructions for the modeling activity and also more frequently
reported a desire to perform the modeling as a class demonstration
rather than in small groups. Because our study included only one
semester of data, the greater perceived helpfulness of the pipe-cleaner
modeling, while significant, may not be generalizable.
In conclusion, this study provides evidence of the equal effective-
ness of two active-learning approaches to the teaching of mitosis and
meiosis. As such, our findings support flexibility for individual instruc-
tors to determine which active-learning approach is the best fit for their
class and their learners. However, in spite of concentrated effort to
focus instruction on improved understanding of meiosis, student mis-
conceptions still persisted after instruction, as evidenced by student
responses to items on the post-assessment MCI, especially item 1.
Hence, although students improved in their knowledge of meiosis
from the instructional activities described in our study, students may
require multiple exposures to focused learning opportunities to fully
ameliorate misconceptions regarding this complex, yet pedagogically
crucial, cellular process. Future research questions of interest are to
investigate (1) whether the significant difference in perceived helpful-
ness of the modeling approaches is consistent in a subsequent offering
of the same course (or other populations of students); and (2) whether
combining the two modeling approaches in one population of stu-
dents would result in greater learning gains than what we observed
from either of the modeling approaches applied singly.
This research has been supported by tenure-track faculty start-up
funds provided to K.J.M. by the University of Minnesota Rochester.
J.Y.Y.’s collaboration was supported by a Career Development
Internship during her Ph.D. studies at Mayo Graduate School in
Rochester, MN. The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.
There is no connection between any authors and a commercial
product being used or included in the manuscript.
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