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A Structured Inquiry Approach to Cotyledon Phenotyping

By Megan L Van Etten

Pennsylvania State University

In this lab, students will work with messy data to try to answer the question “How do plants inherit cotyledon color?”

Listed in Teaching Materials | resource by group Plants by the Numbers II

Additional materials available

Version 1.0 - published on 20 Dec 2018 doi:10.25334/Q4XX5X - cite this

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Adapted from: A Structured Inquiry Approach to Cotyledon Phenotyping v 1.0



Transmission genetics labs have long been valuable hands-on explorations in undergraduate Introductory Biology and Genetics courses. While such labs are strongly analytical, they often present the scientific process as artificially linear, with a single, straightforward “right answer.” To more accurately represent the scientific thought process, I have developed a structured inquiry approach to transmission genetics labs grounded in cotyledon color. Student lab groups develop their own hypotheses to answer the question “How do plants inherit cotyledon color?” based on limited, contextualized information. Each group receives its own blinded set of F2 seeds that differ from the seeds some or all other groups receive. Group members work together to define the fuzzy boundaries between colors based on actual observations, then use chi-squared tests to evaluate their initial hypothesis. Optional and advanced activities can further enrich scientific thinking in this lab by integrating hypothesis refinement, scientific uncertainty, plausible alternative explanations, and designing new  experiments.


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Plants by the Numbers II

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