HOESE, W.J.*; WALKER, S.E.; Calif. State Univ. Fullerton: Assessing College Studentsí Understanding of Insect Diversity
Students enter college with non-scientific conceptions about biology. Widespread misconceptions have been identified in students of diverse ages, backgrounds, and experiences. Many of these misconceptions remain resistant to change and frequently continue intact throughout college and beyond. Often these misconceptions go unrecognized by instructors and unexamined by students. Students regularly confuse distantly related organisms and have difficulty identifying and classifying common organisms. However, as instructors, we have little information regarding how college students identify and classify organisms. Insects are among the most diverse groups of organisms in terms of species, morphology, behavior, and physiology. We assessed misconceptions that introductory biology students have regarding insects. Students listed the common names of insects they knew, drew typical insects, and also determined whether sample line drawings were insects. In addition, students evaluated a series of digitally manipulated line drawings that had key body parts altered. We found that entering biology majors did not have a clear notion of what constituted an insect. Many students did not differentiate between arachnids and insects. Cluster analysis of student drawings identified major morphological misconceptions, including leg placement and number of tagma and legs. Students had difficulty identifying unfamiliar insects and tended to identify non-insect arthropods as insects. In order to promote science learning it is important to identify common misconceptions held by students that remained undiagnosed by previous instruction. These results may enable instructors to plan activities where the studentsí existing knowledge is challenged and reconstructed in a manner consistent with basic biological principles.