How to translate text using browser tools
1 October 2015 Modeling with Nonliving Objects to Enhance Understanding of Phylogenetic Tree Construction
Evan Lampert, Jennifer Mook
Author Affiliations +

Understanding how to read and interpret phylogenetic trees is an essential skill for biology students. We tested an alternative approach in which students draw trees showing the evolution of familiar nonliving objects, such as cell phones and vehicles, rather than unfamiliar species. We surveyed students in a two-semester biology sequence for majors to determine whether this approach increased engagement, and we found that they preferred the alternative approach. Another group of students performing the activity with nonliving objects showed that performance on a content assessment was not changed before and after the activity. A final group showed that students who had drawn trees of nonliving objects beforehand were able to draw phylogenetic trees of living species more accurately than classmates who did not draw them previously. Although drawing trees of nonliving objects rather than living species did not affect students' content-learning outcomes, it did improve their ability to draw phylogenetic trees accurately, and they preferred it. These pieces of evidence suggest that drawing trees showing the evolution of nonliving objects is an engaging and beneficial addition to evolution lesson plans.

©2015 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Reprints and Permissions web page,
Evan Lampert and Jennifer Mook "Modeling with Nonliving Objects to Enhance Understanding of Phylogenetic Tree Construction," The American Biology Teacher 77(8), 587-599, (1 October 2015).
Published: 1 October 2015

This article is only available to subscribers.
It is not available for individual sale.

student engagement
Get copyright permission
Back to Top