Recently there have been major shifts in biology education towards emphasizing the teaching of the scientific process to more closely reflect actual scientific practices. Authentic research experiences require the development of many higher order cognitive skills. Creating an authentic research experience that appropriately scaffolds the development of these complex skills while engaging individual student motivation remains challenging in classroom settings. Some common challenges include limited time available for working with large numbers of students, cramped working areas, and limited funding and materials resources. Using the Siamese Fighting Fish, Betta splendens, we have created an economically viable authentic animal behavioral research experience in the classroom that is emotionally and intellectually engaging while emphasizing the development of skills critical to the scientific process. Students will work collaboratively in pairs and as a class to perform novel research investigating the relationship between environmental temperature and air breathing by this fish during aggressive interactions. Studying aggression in bettas is ideal in a classroom setting because the behavior is inducible, reliable, and easily manipulated. In this experiment, 12 male bettas were housed individually in 3.8L plastic containers. They were subjected to two different temperature treatments (High 30 °C; Low 27 °C). Each male was observed in paired contests with 6 other males of comparable size, during which we quantified air breathing and observed tail beating. This research reveals that males in warmer water do more air breathing during aggressive displays than males in cooler water. Additionally, the basic experimental design can be easily modified to investigate novel student-driven questions. Limitations of this animal model can be explored and discussed as considerations that are integral to the scientific process, further instilling the authenticity of the student experience.


Animal Studies | Biological Psychology | Biology | Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Methods | Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Other Physiology | Science and Mathematics Education | Secondary Education


Ronald M. Coleman

Lab site

California State University, Sacramento (Sac State)

Funding Acknowledgement

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program under Grant # 1340110. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The research was also made possible by the California State University STEM Teacher and Researcher Program, in partnership with Chevron (www.chevron.com), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (www.marinesanctuary.org) and California State University, Sacramento.



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/star/437


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