Forging productive relationships to advance student competence in biological experimentation

Project No.
PI Name
Nancy Pelaez
Purdue University

Abstract 1

Forging productive relationships to advance student competence in biological experimentation

Presentation Type
Nancy J. Pelaez, Trevor Anderson, and Stephanie M. Gardner, Purdue University, and Yue Yin, University of Illinois at Chicago


While an increasing number of studies focus on helping students decipher the experimental research process in general, most assessment tools only indirectly measure what undergraduates learn from performing biology experiments.


The ACE-Bio Network aims to establish a new collaboration to synergistically unify research scientists and educational specialists, the two types of expertise required to develop the needed instructional resources and assessments.


Annual meetings are held to identify existing and needed tools for instruction and assessment in experimentation, as well as to document the process through which we are forging a productive partnership that respects the needs and values of all sub-disciplines and interest groups concerned with competency in biological experimentation.


The intellectual merit of this project is that it addresses the need to develop assessments that directly measure what students learn about biology research to strengthen their research skills. These assessments highlight areas of student difficulty and they have both summative and formative applications as activities for promoting learning about experimental research competencies. As a key outcome, the common standards and assessments will be used across multiple institutions and disciplines of biology.

Broader Impacts

The broader impacts of the project lie in the fact that faculty involved in the project come from a variety of biology sub-disciplines at different career levels and from a wide range of institutions, providing an opportunity for liberal arts colleges and master's-degree-granting institutions, in particular, to provide input to the development of assessments that can positively impact their students.

Unexpected Challenges

Students' conceptual, reasoning, including visualization, difficulties with biological experimentation need to be taken into account when designing and developing teaching approaches and assessments, as these difficulties can seriously interfere with the learning and performance of science, yet many publications address the teaching of experimentation competencies without documenting students difficulties. For this reason, the ACE-Bio Network is working with the Science Conceptual and Reasoning Difficulties Network (, which has been designed to gather and share information for the benefit of science instructors, educational researchers, scientific researchers and all students engaged in the learning and practice of science.

Through an extensive dynamic network of users,, will promote collaborations and the sharing of knowledge and experiences, while endeavoring to breakdown any barriers that may exist between the above groups of stakeholders. is aimed at promoting both research on student difficulties and the dissemination and application of such research knowledge to the teaching and learning of experimentation in biology, as well as to the performance of scientific research.


Pelaez, Nancy, Trevor Anderson, and Samuel Postlethwait. A Vision for Change in Bioscience Education: Building on Knowledge from the Past. BioScience 65 (1): 90-100, 2015.

Dasgupta, A. P., T.R. Anderson, and N. Pelaez. Development and Validation of a Rubric for Diagnosing Students' Experimental Design Knowledge and Difficulties. CBE Life Sciences Education 13: 265-284 (doi:10.1187/cbe.13-09-0192), 2014.

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