Research in Science Education

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 569–589 | Cite as

Modeling the Transition from a Phenotypic to Genotypic Conceptualization of Genetics in a University-Level Introductory Biology Context

  • Amber ToddEmail author
  • William L. Romine
  • Josefina Correa-Menendez


Identifying contingencies between constructs in a multi-faceted learning progression (LP) is a challenging task. Often, there is not enough evidence in the literature to support connections, and once identified, they are difficult to empirically test. Here, we use causal model search to evaluate how connections between ideas in a genetics LP change over time in the context of an introductory biology course. We identify primary and secondary hub ideas and connections between concepts before and after instruction to illustrate how students moved from a phenotypic grounding of genetics knowledge to a more genotypic grounding of their genetics knowledge after instruction. We discuss our results in light of conceptual change and illustrate the importance of understanding students’ idea structures within a domain.


Genetics Learning progressions Causal model search Bayesian networks 



We would like to thank the Center for Causal Discovery, supported by grant U54HG008540, for providing open access to its software TETRAD and for methodological assistance. We would like to thank Gretchen Haas for valuable feedback on this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Medical Education, Boonshoft School of MedicineWright State UniversityDaytonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesWright State UniversityDaytonUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Puerto Rico at Rio PiedrasSan JuanPuerto Rico

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