Brown Bag Series: Students’ Molecular Genetics Explanations of Inheritance Patterns by Moraima Matus-Nicodemos

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Zoom Meeting - Virtual

Brown Bag Lecture Series

Genetics is a core topic in the biology curriculum in many countries. While important, learning genetics is difficult for multiple reasons, including the need to reason about complex mechanisms and to link mechanisms that occur at different time and space scales. Previous research in genetics education explores either students’ understandings of inheritance patterns or their understandings of molecular genetics; only a handful of studies examined how students understand the connection between molecular mechanisms and inheritance patterns. Moreover, we know little about how such understandings develop over the secondary and undergraduate levels. To address this gap, we conducted a cross sectional interview study with students from middle school and high school, as well as undergraduate and graduate students, after they had experienced “status-quo” instruction in genetics. We analyzed student responses and described student learning across several grades. This allowed us to propose a progression describing the gradual use of genetic ideas to solve dominant and recessive problems of inheritance by students at different grades. We discuss the implications of the tentative progression for instruction aimed at supporting reasoning across time and space scales in genetics.


Moraima Matus-Nicodemos is a Ph.D . in Education candidate at Rutgers GSE, focusing on the learning sciences and expecting to complete her degree this academic year. Moraima’s dissertation is focused on the refinement of the learning progression in genetics. The genetics progression spans grades 5-10 and includes eight constructs that map onto three conceptual models in genetics: a) inheritance model, b) meiotic model, and c) molecular model. Genetics literacy entails deepening understandings of each model as well as reasoning fluently and seamlessly across all three models. Moraima’s dissertation specifically tackles, in a series of three papers, the revision of the inheritance constructs and an examination of how students reason across these models.

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Who to contact:

Colleen McDermott