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Evolution: Education and Outreach

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 679–687

First Online: 02 September 2009Received: 21 July 2008Accepted: 10 August 2009


Genetic diversity is a core concept in evolutionary biology; genetic variation is a prerequisite for heritable differential selection, and biodiversity plays a central role in debates about environmental policy today. The technique of gel electrophoresis provides a simple, visual demonstration of the variation that exists on the genetic level among individuals of a species. -DNA fingerprinting-, in particular, is a method that exploits variation within species and has been explored extensively by the news media and popular television shows. In this paper, we suggest that science educators can capitalize on this momentum of interest and incorporate gel electrophoresis to their teaching as a starting point for the examination of genetic diversity that connects fundamental concepts of the molecular, cellular, organismic, and population levels of ecological organization. As a pedagogical tool toward this aim, we examine how increasingly complex inquiry learning can be supported in classrooms by the application of software tools called -virtual laboratories-. The paper is a synthesis of current research on the integration of software design and instructional design to illustrate how two software tools can be employed for different levels of inquiry learning.

KeywordsGenetic diversity Virtual laboratories Inquiry learning Learning and instruction Relevant research was partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0219196, PI: Dr. Eva E. Toth, 2002–2007 and by a grant from the Duquesne University, Faculty Development Grant No. G0700071, PI: Dr. Eva. E. Toth, 2007. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agency and the National Science Foundation.

The authors would like to thank the following colleagues for their assistance in the development of the pedagogical approach and classroom trials at a variety of instructional levels: Ms. Rachel Becker, Highlands Highs School, Natrona Heights, PA; Ms. Rhonda Graham, Pittsburgh Public Schools; Dr. Lisa Ludvico; and Dr. Becky Morrow, Duquesne University, Bayer School of Natural Sciences.

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Autor: Eva Erdosne Toth - Sarah K. Brem - Geza Erdos


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