Using 3D Molecular Models in Biology and Chemistry Courses

Authors: Jennifer Klein, Biology; Basudeb Bhattacharyya, Chemistry; David Howard, Biology UW La Crosse
Submission Date: June 12, 2015
Courses: General Biology, Cell Biology, Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry Survey
Description: We focused on learning goals associated with biomolecular structure, with an emphasis on water and proteins. In the biology curriculum, the structure of biomolecules is first introduced in General Biology (BIO 105) and is elaborated on in Cell Biology (BIO 315); both General Biology and Cell Biology are part of the biology core so each serve hundreds of students each semester and is taught by many instructors. In the chemistry curriculum, the structure of biomolecules isn’t introduced until students take Biochemistry, which occurs as a 400-level course for majors, but is introduced at the 200-level as an organic chemistry and biochemistry survey course (CHM 250) for nonmajors.

Abstract: Given the difficulty that many students have understanding the concepts of polarity and hydrogen bonding as they apply to water and biomolecules such as DNA and proteins, 3D models were integrated in units on water, protein and DNA in a variety of 100-, 200-, and 300-level biology and chemistry courses in order to gather preliminary data on the effectiveness of these models for student learning. We found that 100- and 200-level students rated these models as very effective learning tools, but the 300-level students did not. Further studies will focus on assessing the impact of these models on student learning in the introductory levels.

Using 3D Molecular Models in Biology and Chemistry Courses Lesson Study Final Report