We present an inquiry-based curriculum based on the digital evolution platform Avida-ED (http://avida-ed.msu.edu). We designed an instructional sequence and lab book consisting of an introduction to Avida-ED and a set of three lessons focused on specific evolutionary concepts. These served to familiarize students with experimental evolution and Avida-ED. Students then developed independent Avida-ED research projects to test their own questions. Curriculum design and implementation occurred over the course or two semesters, with a pilot implementation in the first semester, followed by curriculum revision and full implementation in the second semester. The curriculum was implemented in an undergraduate Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology course at a major research university. Full implementation of the curriculum in semester two involved the use of Avida-ED mainly in the teaching lab in parallel with a bacterial antibiotic resistance experimental research stream, allowing students to draw connections between Avidian digital evolution and the evolution of antibiotic resistance in microbial populations. After carrying out the introductory exercises, students developed independent Avida-ED projects to test their own research questions, and presented their data to researchers in the NSF-funded BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. Preliminary results of our studies to assess the impacts of an Avida-ED curriculum indicate a positive effect on student learning of evolutionary concepts, particularly in increasing the level of complexity of student explanations about the random nature of mutation.
Cite this work
Researchers should cite this work as follows: