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Alternate Conceptions in Alternate Conceptions in Genetics: A Correlation Genetics: A Correlation between Students’ between Students’ Previous Study of Previous Study of Genetics and Genetics and Demonstrated Knowledge Demonstrated Knowledge of Genetics of Genetics By Bonnie M. Lestz By Bonnie M. Lestz SEYS 778, Spring 2008 SEYS 778, Spring 2008 Prof. Murfin, Queens College Prof. Murfin, Queens College May 21, 2008 May 21, 2008

Genetic Misconceptions Presentation

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  • 1. Alternate Conceptions in Genetics: A Correlation between Students Previous Study of Genetics and Demonstrated Knowledge of Genetics By Bonnie M. Lestz SEYS 778, Spring 2008 Prof. Murfin, Queens College May 21, 2008

2. Research Project

  • I conducted research in my five classes to see if students prior genetics education affected their conceptions and knowledge in Genetics
  • Before teaching the unit on genetics and biotechnology I gave the students a pretest courtesy of Dr. Jenny Lewis of the University of Leeds, UK
  • Pretest was designed to asses students knowledge of genetic concepts & determine if they held alternate conceptions

3. Why Study Genetics?

  • Recent advances in genetics affect many aspects of life.
    • Human Genome Project
    • Animal cloning
    • DNA fingerprinting
    • Genetically modified organisms
  • How can the public make informed decisions about these without understanding the basics of genetics?

4. For this pre-test, you will be graded on how thoroughly you answer each question, not the accuracy of your answers.I am interested in learning what you already know about genetics and biotechnology to help shape our lessons for this unit.Please take your time to answer all parts of each question.This will allow you to receive full credit for each answer, and therefore a 100% added to your test average for this marking period, as well as receive the best possible education over thenext several weeks.

  • The six biological items in the list below are all parts of living systems.Put a check mark next to the items you have heard of.
  • Cell
  • Chromosome
  • Gene
  • DNA
  • Organism
  • Nucleus
  • Now write the ones you have heard of in the spaces provided below from largest to smallest.
  • Largest:________________________
  • ________________________
  • ________________________
  • ________________________
  • ________________________
  • Smallest: ________________________
  • Now I would like to know how much you know about each of the following terms:
  • Genes: ____ I have never heard of genes.
  • ____ I have heard of genes, but dontknow what they are.
  • ____ I have heard of genes and couldsay something about them.
  • a. Where in your body are genes found? _____________
  • ___________________________________________
  • b. What are genes made up of? ___________________
  • __________________________________________
  • c. Why are genes important? _____________________
  • __________________________________________
  • DNA: ____ I have never heard of DNA.
  • ____ I have heard of DNA, but dont really knowwhat DNA is.
  • ____ I have heard of DNA, and could saysomething about it.
  • a. Where in your body is DNA found? _______________
  • ___________________________________________
  • b. What is DNA made up of? ______________________
  • ___________________________________________
  • c. Why is DNA important? ________________________
  • ___________________________________________
  • Chromosomes: ____ I have never heard ofchromosomes.
  • ____ I have heard of chromosomes, but dont really know what they are.
  • ____ I have heard of chromosomes, and
  • could say something about them.

5. 6. My Research & Findings

  • 108 students completed the survey
  • 59 reported they had studied genetics, 43 had not.
  • No significant difference between the two groups in whether or not they had heard of cells, chromosomes, genes, DNA, organism & nucleus
  • Only 6 could accurately sort from largest to smallest, 4 who had not studied, 2 who had!


  • Many students have fragmented knowledge.
    • Basic understanding of DNA, genes and chromosomes, but lack detail.
    • Some understand that genes are everywhere, all over and in chromosomes
    • Others said genes are in your blood or in your head.
  • Alternate conceptions demonstrated
    • Genes are found in your DNA
    • Genes are made up when your parents come together
    • Genes are important because it tells you what you got from what parent


  • No statistical significance to the results
    • Some answers definitely attributed to students misreading or misinterpreting questions
    • Students mostly attributed Roberts cheek cells being identical to being from the same part of the same person
    • More students in both groups understood that cells from different people had different genetic information
    • Students who had studied genetics tended to give more scientifically detailed explanations
    • Some students in both group based responses to on appearance of illustrations

44 Correct (75.9%) 6 Dont know (10.3%) 8 Wrong (13.8%) 1 Unanswered29 Correct (50%) 8 Don't know (13.8%) 21 Wrong (36.2%) 1 UnansweredYes (59) 38 Correct (90.5%) 3 Don't know (7.1%) 1 Wrong (2.4%) 1 Unanswered24 Correct (57.2%) 9 Dont know (21.4%) 9 Wrong (21.4%) 1 UnansweredNo (43) John & Danny's Cheek Cells Robert's Cheek Cells Studied Genetics 9. Information Transfer

  • Many students in both groups were able to describe that the genetic information multiplied within the new baby
  • None specified that the genetic information in all of the babys cells was identical
  • Again No statistical difference between the groups

10. Limitations of Current Research

  • Small, non-random, non-heterogeneous sample
  • Only able to conduct pretest, not able to see if alternate conceptions affected learning
  • Possibility students misreported having studied genetics or not
  • Data collection tool unfamiliar to students