Jennifer Loertscher (Seattle University)| Sachel Villafane (California State University, Fullerton)| Vicky Minderhout (Seattle University)
Metabolic systems form the very foundation of life and as such are broadly taught in the molecular life sciences. We have developed and used an assessment instrument to measure undergraduate students’ understanding of biochemical pathway dynamics and regulation in a metabolic context. A community of biochemistry educators was involved in an iterative process of designing and testing the instrument and accompanying rubric. The assessment instrument was embedded on final exams in an introductory biochemistry course and student responses were collected over several terms. Analysis of student responses showed that most students were able to interpret visual representations in an unfamiliar metabolic pathway. Furthermore, many students could make basic predictions about how the system would be expected to respond to changes. However, fewer students generated nuanced responses that accounted for both microscopic changes at the protein level and macroscopic changes in pathway product outputs. Reflection on the instrument development process and on student responses led to insights about the challenges of meaningfully assessing students’ understanding and could be used to improve instruction and assessment in undergraduate biochemistry courses and beyond.