Concept Attainment Genetics Lesson

I got this genetics activity from the 2009 NSTA conference, and it was presented by a representative from the Center for the Integration of Science Education and Research at Texas Tech University (CISER).  The activity employs the concept attainment model.  It leads students to a concept by having them compare and contrast examples that contain the attributes of the concept with examples that do not contain the attributes.  Eventually, students should be able to identify the critical attributes of a concept.  CISER developed a genetics lesson using this method, and it has proven to be an effective, fun way to introduce my general biology students to genotypes.  Here is a link to the lesson:

Concept attainment genetics lesson

I guide students to  categorize a list of potential genotypes into two groups. The items categorized in the “YES” group possess the attributes of a properly written genotype.  Those categorized as “NO” items lack the proper attributes of a genotype.  I give a few examples of both “YES” items, and “NO” items before having students start to guess.  I have adapted this lesson to my Smartboard, and at the beginning of the lesson, it looks like this:

Students then drag the items through the blue revealer cone to see if they are a “YES” or a “NO” item.  Towards the end of the activity, the board looks like this:

Notice the final genotype being pulled through the revealer box.  Once we are finished categorizing the items in “YES” and “NO” groups, the class discusses what makes something a “YES.”  They will suggest attributes of genotypes, like, “there must be two of the same letter written consecutively” or “if only one of the two letters in a pair is capitalized, it must be written first.”  Typically, my students haven’t even been introduced to genes, alleles, or inheritance patterns when we complete this activity.  Once we get to Mendelian genetics, however, they very rarely make errors when using letters to represent dominant and recessive alleles.

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1 Response to “Concept Attainment Genetics Lesson”


  1. 1 Holly January 26, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I love this method for “rule teaching”: clever, simple, and reinforcing critical thinking and pattern discernment. Awesome!


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