Investigating Novice and Expert Conceptions of Genetically Modified Organisms
CBE - Life Sciences Education
The aspiration of biology education is to give students tools to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to everyday life. Genetic modification is a real-world biological concept that relies on an in-depth understanding of the molecular behavior of DNA and proteins. This study investigated undergraduate biology students' conceptions of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) when probed with real-world, molecular and cellular, and essentialist cues, and how those conceptions compared across
... gy expertise. We developed a novel written assessment tool and administered it to 120 non-biology majors, 154 entering biology majors, 120 advanced biology majors (ABM), and nine biology faculty. Results indicated that undergraduate biology majors rarely included molecular and cellular rationales in their initial explanations of GMOs. Despite ABM demonstrating that they have much of the biology knowledge necessary to understand genetic modification, they did not appear to apply this knowledge to explaining GMOs. Further, this study showed that all undergraduate student populations exhibited evidence of essentialist thinking while explaining GMOs, regardless of their level of biology training. Finally, our results suggest an association between scientifically accurate ideas and the application of molecular and cellular rationales, as well as an association between misconceptions and essentialist rationales.