Working Groups‎ > ‎


Participants: Jenny Dauer, Joe Dauer, Sam Donovan, Stephanie Gardner, Jenny Knight, Tammy Long, Jenni Momsen, Dina Newman, Kate Wright

Google doc for note taking:

What is the problem?

We don’t know the reasoning students are using in introductory biology and faculty may not be explicit in incorporating formal reasoning in introductory biology.

Goal: Define classroom practices that involve student reasoning and map those onto formal reasoning school.

What do we know?

We know there are three logical ways of reasoning (induction, deduction, abduction) and many supporting ways of reasoning (e.g., systemic, conditional, criterion, analogical).

What don't we know?

Do faculty explicitly consider formal reasoning when developing curriculum, assessment?

Do students use formal reasoning? What forms of reasoning do students use?

Do students transfer reasoning approaches from one context to another?

What kinds of reasoning skills do student develop and when (i.e., development across a year-long introductory biology sequence)?

What activities promote the development of formal reasoning skills?

What is hard?

It’s difficult to assess reasoning.

It’s difficult to isolate reasoning.

It’s difficult to deconstruct the components of reasoning.

It’s difficult to find reasoning examples that fall across practices.

It’s difficult to know if students are engaging in the reasoning we think they ought to be.

Students may enter intro biol with an epistemology that does not support reasoning. It’s difficult to help students understand the value of reasoning.

What are the common elements?

Formal reasoning approaches are shared across introductory biology.

What are the next research questions?

Can you vary concrete to abstract, reasoning approach…

Can we generate a generalized approach to teach, assess model-based reasoning?

Can we use the table to support research (e.g., identify difficulty students have with reasoning)?

What is the message?

No brain, no gain.

What is the nature of the evidence?

It depends… on the practice and reasoning.

Need to search literature.

Nature of the reasoning, quality of reasoning.


See example, below. May also be a matter of mapping existing activities to the table/framework.


Product:  Framework for aligning known dimensions of reasoning with disciplinary practices that might be expected in an introductory biology classroom.


(1) For Bio-ed researchers:

a.  Tool for metacognitive reflection.  Many of us regularly build curricular and learning materials intended to support specific learning outcomes or to provide students’ practice (practical experience) with disciplinary practices - e.g., working with models, simulations, evaluating/interpreting/representing evidence.  As a reflective tool, the table enables us to map the intersection of practices with specific types of reasoning elicited as the students engage in different  elements of the activity/assessment.

b. A framework for future research.  

(2) For faculty responsible for biology instruction, the framework helps articulate different dimensions of reasoning that faculty may not be aware of.

Literature: - Mintzes & Wandersee - good table of types of sci reasoning - - provides list of types, but need independent validation from literature


Example of how the Amino acid starter kit activity maps onto this scientific reasoning framework.  Model link:

This activity involves students building and folding a 15 amino-acid polypeptide made of a flexible toober (backbone) and removable side-chain pieces.  Students use rules of chemistry to determine how side-chains interact with each other and stabilize the 3-D conformation of the molecule.

Interpret scientific data

Constructing evidenced-

based arguments

Evaluate evidence

Construct representations

Interpret representations

Apply rules

Thinking across scales

Connections to real world



Predict properties of soluble and membrane bound proteins


Make predictions about “real proteins”


“Fold” the protein in 3-D using rules of chemistry


Example of established mutations that result in disease


Compare different levels of protein structure


Modeled the result of a mutation (change in DNA sequence)


Make a 15 amino acid polypeptide (understand the model and  what features of the model are unrealistic)


Sorting amino acids

Compare the 3-D pieces with the chemical representations



Stephanie Gardner,
Nov 9, 2013, 3:35 PM
Sam Donovan,
Nov 9, 2013, 3:30 PM
Jenny Knight,
Nov 9, 2013, 3:35 PM