Discipline: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: STEM Science and Mathematics Education
Melanie Van Stry - Lane College
Lane College is a small historically black college located in Jackson, TN. The majority of the students are underserved African Americans from areas of high poverty. General Biology at Lane College is a foundational survey course required for Biology majors and Physical Education majors. Topics covered in the second semester of the course include natural selection, evolution, biodiversity, and ecology. This course is especially challenging for students given the large amount of information that they are typically required to memorize. We are currently implementing a peer-led team learning strategy to enable students to actively engage in learning core concepts outlined in Vision and Change. The learning goal for the exercise presented here is to explore the evolutionary relatedness of different plant species. The learning objectives for this exercise are for students to understand plant taxonomy and to analyze the DNA evidence for the origin of the chloroplast through a phylogenetic comparison of the ribulose-1,5 bisphosphate carboxylase/oxidase large subunit (rbcl) gene. Prior to coming to class, the students are given a reading assignment for the Land Plants chapter in their textbook. During the first class meeting, at the beginning of the exercise, the students are divided into teams of four. Each team is assigned a set of four unknown DNA sequences from closely related plant or algal species, and each student chooses a sequence. Each student then uses the standard Basic Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) to identify the gene and their plant species for their sequence. The students then answer specific questions about their plant or algal species regarding taxonomic classification. Next, each student creates a sequence alignment of the entire class set of sequences and constructs a phylogenetic tree using CLUSTAL Omega. They then compare their phylogenetic tree with the one from their textbook and discuss the similarities and differences between the trees. At the next class meeting, each group presents a short summary of the characteristics for their assigned plant clade.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation HRD 1623340
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,