Learning Tree Thinking: Developing a New Framework of Representational Competence

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Book Chapter

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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Phylogenetic trees are dynamic external representations used to illustrate evolutionary relatedness among taxa. However, students often struggle with correctly interpreting and using these representations in biology courses. In order to optimize learning, it is imperative to understand the challenges students face when trying to correctly understand representations, how students actually learn tree thinking and to identify means to help students overcome these challenges. In this chapter, we synthesize current research findings and discuss the learning process involved with making sense of and generating phylogenetic tree representations at the university level. Furthermore, notions of representational competencevary across contexts and can be representation specific. Thus, we have proposed a new framework for representational competence highlighting learnable skills required for developing tree thinking. This revised framework can inform the design of evolutioncurricula and maximize the instructional potential of phylogenetic representations.

Publication Title

Multiple Representations in Biological Education

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