Impact of biotechnology labs on high school biology students
Hudson, Cheryl A.
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There is a growing interest and emphasis on teaching biotechnology methods and concepts to high school level students in order to help prepare them to be able to participate in highly technological careers. Numerous biotechnology professional development programs exist for science teachers to gain knowledge and skills that are necessary to teach biotechnology. While it is an easy transition to teach biotechnology methods in advanced and AP level courses, there is uncertainty about the limitations and accommodations that will be necessary to incorporate biotechnology labs into a regular high school biology classroom with 28 students or more of various levels and exceptionalities. The additional expense and time necessary to incorporate biotechnology are justified if students gain increased conceptual understanding and demonstrate improved attitude toward science as a result of the labs. The primary question I sought to answer with this project was what are the effects of incorporating biotechnology labs on high school students' understanding of molecular biology concepts? Secondary questions related to the project are: What were the effects of incorporating biotechnology labs on students' interest in science, students' confidence in their abilities to do science, and on my teaching practices? The sequence of biotechnology labs that occurred within the curriculum of compulsory high school biology were quantitative protein analysis of food, DNA fingerprinting, pGLO bacterial transformation, and GMO investigation of food. The labs utilized Vernier Probeware and Bio-Rad Explorer kits. Conceptual understanding of molecular biology concepts was assessed using student developed concept maps and free-response questions. Anonymous student surveys and one-on-one student interviews were used to assess attitude toward science, which is defined in this project as interest, confidence, and relevance. Results for improved attitude were inconclusive; however gains in conceptual understanding were substantial with the biotechnology labs.