Alternation of Generations and Experimental Design: A Guided-Inquiry Lab Exploring the Nature of the her1 Developmental Mutant of Ceratopteris richardii (C-Fern)

Here’s another great example of using C-Fern in an inquiry-based laboratory.


Inquiry-based labs have been shown to greatly increase student participation and learning within the biological sciences. One challenge is to develop effective lab exercises within the constraints of large introductory labs. We have designed a lab for first-year biology majors to address two primary goals: to provide effective learning of the unique aspects of the plant life cycle and to gain a practical knowledge of experimental design. An additional goal was to engage students regardless of their biology background. In our experience, plant biology, and the plant life cycle in particular, present a pedagogical challenge because of negative student attitudes and lack of experience with this topic. This lab uses the fern Ceratopteris richardii (C-Fern), a model system for teaching and research that is particularly useful for illustrating alternation of generations. This lab does not simply present the stages of the life cycle; it also uses knowledge of alternation of generations as a starting point for characterizing the her1 mutation that affects gametophyte sexual development. Students develop hypotheses, arrive at an appropriate experimental design, and carry out a guided inquiry on the mechanism underlying the her1 mutation. Quantitative assessment of student learning and attitudes demonstrate that this lab achieves the desired goals.

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