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Dahlquist KD, Aikens ML, Dauer JT, Donovan SS, Eaton CD, Highlander HC, Jenkins KP, Jungck JR, LaMar MD, Ledder G, Mayes RL, Schugart RC.2017. An invitation to modeling: building a community with shared explicit practices. PeerJ Preprints5:e3215v1https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.3215v1
Models and the process of modeling are fundamental to the discipline of biology, and therefore should be incorporated into undergraduate biology courses. In this essay, we draw upon the literature and our own teaching experiences to provide practical suggestions for how to introduce models and modeling to introductory biology students. We begin by demonstrating the ubiquity of models in biology, including representations of the process of science itself. We advocate for a model of the process of science that highlights parallel tracks of mathematical and experimental modeling investigations. With this recognition, we suggest ways in which instructors can call students’ attention to biological models more explicitly by using modeling language, facilitating metacognition about the use of models, and employing model-based reasoning. We then provide guidance on how to begin to engage students in the process of modeling, encouraging instructors to scaffold a progression to mathematical modeling. We use the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium model to provide specific pedagogical examples that illustrate our suggestions. We propose that by making even a small shift in the way models and modeling are discussed in the classroom, students will gain understanding of key biological concepts, practice realistic scientific inquiry, and build quantitative and communication skills.
This article has been submitted as an "Essay" to the journal CBE--Life Sciences Education on August 25, 2017.