Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Andrew Martin

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Abstract

As educational practices start to focus on three-dimensional (3D) learning for students by incorporating practices, concepts, and core ideas, it is vital to understand how alternative forms of idea development affect student understanding. In a revolutionary 2015 commentary, Quillin and Thomas (2015) created the model Drawing-to-Learn to convey the need for drawing in Biology classrooms. The main conclusion was that since other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical) disciplines are using drawings to create a deeper understanding of the topic, there is also a need for it in biology. Using similar ideas to the concept of Drawing- to-Learn, 109 students in an upper-division Evolution class were subjects to using Visualization as a tool to communicate their ideas. In this research a Visualization was a student-produced piece of work that included multiple images, drawings, and structures to communicate their ideas about a topic and to depict prior research methodologies.

Students’ work was evaluated at multiple points throughout the semester to determine completeness of their abilities to visualize and their level of expertise in visualizing a single concept. Students were also surveyed and interviewed to access how they perceived this form of learning. No significant trends were seen in students' ability to produce expert level work between the start and end of the semester. This could be due to the relatively small sample size of a hundred students and the fact that student retention of class content was not being quantified. More research needs to be done on the effects of practice with Visualizations on student retention of content. However, there was a trend indicating that students were more complete in their abilities to visualize by the end of the semester. The survey and interview data indicated that most students found Visualizations helpful in formalizing their ideas and visualizing concepts in their own way. Visualizations could thus be used as a tool in biology class environments for STEM students to convey their level of understanding.

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