skip to main content
Resource type Show Results with: Show Results with: Index

Building mental models by dissecting physical models

Srivastava, Anveshna

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 02 January 2016, Vol.44(1), pp.7-11 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

Full text available online

Citations Cited by
  • Title:
    Building mental models by dissecting physical models
  • Author/Creator: Srivastava, Anveshna
  • Subjects: Active Learning ; Assessment Of Educational Activities ; Contributions From Cognitive Science And Educational Psychology To Student Learning ; Effective In‐Class Problems ; Instructor‐Regulated Collective Learning ; Teaching And Learning Techniques Methods And Approaches ; Visual Literacy
  • Is Part Of: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 02 January 2016, Vol.44(1), pp.7-11
  • Description: When students build physical models from prefabricated components to learn about model systems, there is an implicit trade‐off between the physical degrees of freedom in building the model and the intensity of instructor supervision needed. Models that are too flexible, permitting multiple possible constructions require greater supervision to ensure focused learning; models that are too constrained require less supervision, but can be constructed mechanically, with little to no conceptual engagement. We propose “model‐dissection” as an alternative to “model‐building,” whereby instructors could make efficient use of supervisory resources, while simultaneously promoting focused learning. We report empirical results from a study conducted with biology undergraduate students, where we demonstrate that asking them to “dissect” out specific conceptual structures from an already built 3D physical model leads to a significant improvement in performance than asking them to build the 3D model from simpler components. Using questionnaires to measure understanding both before and after model‐based interventions for two cohorts of students, we find that both the “builders” and the “dissectors” improve in the post‐test, but it is the latter group who show statistically significant improvement. These results, in addition to the intrinsic time‐efficiency of “model dissection,” suggest that it could be a valuable pedagogical tool. © 2015 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 44:7–11, 2016.
  • Identifier: ISSN: 1470-8175 ; E-ISSN: 1539-3429 ; DOI: 10.1002/bmb.20921