In order to challenge our undergraduate students’ enduring misconception that plants, animals, and fungi must be “advanced” and that other eukaryotes traditionally called protists must be “primitive,” we have developed a 24-hour take-home guided inquiry and investigation of live Physarum cultures. The experiment replicates recent peer-reviewed research regarding speed–accuracy tradeoffs and reliably produces data with which students explore key biological concepts and practice essential scientific competencies. It requires minimal resources and can be adapted for high school students or more independent student investigations. We present statistical analyses of data from four semesters and provide examples of our strategies for student engagement and assessment.
Microscopy and precise observation are essential skills that are challenging to teach effectively to large numbers of undergraduate biology students. We implemented student-driven digital imaging assignments for microscopy in a large-enrollment laboratory for organismal biology. We detail how we promoted student engagement with the material and how we assessed student learning in both formative and summative formats using digital images. Students worked in pairs to collect over 60 digital images of their microscopic observations over the semester and then individually created electronic portfolios, which were submitted for a grade.