Becca Price publishes paper on the challenges of teaching genetic drift

photo of Becca Price

IAS faculty member Becca Price published a co-authored paper, “Observing populations and testing predictions about genetic drift in a computer simulation improves college students’ conceptual understanding” in Evolution: Education and Outreach.  The paper focuses on the challenges of teaching genetic drift – the evolutionary process that describes random changes in the frequency of different traits within a population.  It shows that, with some teaching styles, students understanding of this key evolutionary concept can actually decrease after instruction.  The good news is that an easy-to-complete, fun, two-hour computer lab developed by SimBio called “The Genetic Drift and Bottlenecked Ferrets” does an excellent job of teaching genetic drift.  The paper reports that students who completed this lab showed significant learning gains for both items about misconceptions and items about key concepts.  Price also presented this research at the national meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research. At the same conference, she presented a poster about ongoing work with Dr. Kathryn Perez at the University of Texas Pan American. The poster showed the efficacy of a series of activities that efficiently teach college students how to move from thinking of science as a linear process to embracing science as a complex process of research with unpredictable twists and turns.