Using concept maps to characterise cellular respiration knowledge in undergraduate students

Heather E. Bergan-Roller, Nicholas J. Galt, Tomáš Helikar, Joseph T. Dauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Meaningful learning occurs by relating new information to and revising prior knowledge, making it essential to understand student knowledge before helping them move toward a more scientific understanding. In this study, we characterise prior knowledge about cellular respiration in undergraduate students enrolled in introductory biology by analysing student-constructed concept maps (N = 182) and interviews (N = 9). Students were instructed to create concept maps from a bank of 20 concepts with the purpose of interconnecting the processes of cellular respiration, showing how pools of ATP are generated and used, and identifying where the events of cellular respiration occur. Student maps were analysed for content, quality and organisation of knowledge. Interviews were used to corroborate inferences made from concept maps. Students had a simplified understanding of cellular respiration and its processes as evident by cognitive structures with limited quantities of schemas that were vaguely connected and linearly organised. Furthermore, students had a better understanding of glycolysis than fermentation. Instructors can use these findings to help students build better knowledge of cellular respiration by focusing on incorporating relevant schemas, creating quality connections among schemas, and organising their knowledge of cellular respiration to reflect biological complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-46
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Education
  • assessment
  • concept map
  • metabolism
  • postsecondary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Using concept maps to characterise cellular respiration knowledge in undergraduate students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this