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CourseSource articles linked to the GSA Genetics Learning Framework cross-posted here with permission    



Teaching Genetic Linkage and Recombination through Mapping with Molecular Markers




Lisa M. McDonnell and Jennifer Klenz



Most introductory genetics courses cover genetic linkage, a core concept in theĀ CourseSourceĀ genetics learning outcome framework. Although it is a classical genetics topic, genetic linkage remains an important concept to understand in order to grasp modern genetics research approaches including Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) mapping, Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS), and gene discovery. Typically, genetic linkage is taught in a very traditional way within our introductory genetics classes. Invariably, we see students struggling with the same aspects of linkage: how to distinguish between parental and recombinant combinations of alleles and how to relate phenotype proportions to meiotic processes and outcomes. We designed a lesson that provides a practical and experimental context to target these common student difficulties in learning about linkage and recombination. This student-centered interactive lesson and associated post-class problem set teaches genetic linkage through mapping a gene by determining co-segregation of a phenotype with microsatellite sequences revealed by gel electrophoresis banding patterns. This lesson includes very interactive class sessions and a follow-up problem set and post-test that allows students to develop a deeper understanding of genetic linkage, and provides instructors with insights about student thinking. When we implemented this lesson, we observed a dramatic increase in student understanding of genetic linkage and how to use molecular markers to map the location of genes.


Genetics Concept(s) Addressed:

Transmission/ patterns of inheritance: How can one deduce information about genes, alleles, and gene functions from analysis of genetic crosses and patterns of inheritance?

Transmission/ patterns of inheritance: How does the phenomenon of linkage affect the assortment of alleles during meiosis?

Methods and Tools in Genetics: What experimental methods are commonly used to analyze gene structure, gene expression, gene function, and genetic variants?


Core Competencies Addressed:

Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model.

Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results.



Introductory, undergraduate; biology/genetics majors


Activity Type:


Activity Length:


2-3 hours




McDonnell, L. and Klenz, J. 2015. Teaching Genetic Linkage and Recombination through Mapping with Molecular Markers. CourceSource. 00:xxx. doi:00.0000/journal.cs.000000


Article in CourseSource