Biology concepts like tonicity are difficult to grasp, especially for students in BIO100.Most students “get it” when a concept is applied to their lives. But the question is, will more practical applications translate to a better understanding of the concept?
The Fall 2014 unit for tonicity consisted of notes, slides, and a handout showing the three possibilities of tonicity. Also included were 2-3 practical examples. The same materials were used in Spring 2015 but this time multiple examples (10) were used. Six specific exam questions regarding tonicity were compared from fall to spring terms---three focusing on definitions and three were practical applications.
Results showed a percentage improvement for all six questions during spring term. A table with details is included. Interestingly, the average increase for practical applications was nearly double that of the average content understanding (19.2% spring vs. 9.7% fall). Use of more practical applications will be added to this unit, while other teaching techniques will be explored to improve content understanding.