16S Ribosomal RNA and Phylograms: Characterizing Student Reasoning to Learning Outcomes from the American Society for Microbiology Curriculum
Grassie, Chelsey Lee
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The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has established a suggested curriculum for introductory microbiology courses that includes a focus on evolution. However, no data is published to describe how proficiently students address the learning outcomes, in part because validated assessments do not exist. Thus, the goal of this project was to develop assessment prompts that capture student understanding about fundamental statement five under the core concept of evolution. In total, 167 written responses were collected from upper-division microbiology courses, with pre-pharmacy and microbiology majors comprising the majority of students (74.6%). Two coders coded all written responses, and five student interviews were conducted. Results indicate that students have not retained instruction on 16S rRNA, or have not been exposed to it in their classes. Additionally, most students have not been exposed to phylograms, and are unfamiliar with genetic distance being represented on a phylogenetic tree. Emergent reasoning techniques are described.