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J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2012 Dec 3;13(2):125-32. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v13i2.331. Print 2012.

Long-term retention of knowledge and critical thinking skills in developmental biology.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND 58202.


The primary goal of this project was to assess long-term retention of concepts and critical thinking skills in individuals who completed a Developmental Biology course. Undergraduates who had completed the course between 2006 and 2009 were recently contacted and asked to complete a professional goals survey and a multiple-choice developmental biology assessment test (DBAT) targeting four levels of learning. The DBAT was designed to assess students' retention of knowledge and skills related to factual recall, concept application, data analysis, and experimental design. Performance of the 2006-2009 cohorts was compared to that of students enrolled in 2010 who completed the DBAT at the beginning and the end of the semester. Participants from the 2010 course showed significant learning gains based on pre- and posttest scores overall and for each of the four levels of learning. No significant difference in overall performance was observed for students grouped by year from 2006-2010. Participants from the 2006-2009 cohorts scored slightly, but significantly, higher on average if they enrolled in graduate or professional training. However, performance on individual question categories revealed no significant differences between those participants with and without postundergraduate training. Scores on exams and a primary literature critique assignment were correlated with DBAT scores and thus represent predictors of long-term retention of developmental biology knowledge and skills.

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