Lab 15. Mutations in Genes: How Do Different Types of Mutations in Genes Affect the function of an Organism?

National Science Teachers Association
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Interactive Simulation , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Simulation , Activity , Instructor Guide/Manual
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Lab 15. Mutations in Genes: How Do Different Types of Mutations in Genes Affect the Function of an Organism? is one lab from the NSTA Press book entitled Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science. This lab introduces students to the transfer of genetic information and how DNA mutations can influence the organism. It gives students the opportunity to use a computer simulation to explore how mutations affect the shape of proteins made from a DNA sequence ( Scale and proportion are used to investigate the phenomena; connecting it to the resulting structure and function of organisms.

The investigation provides background content for the educator and comprehensive instructions for the incorporation of the lesson into the class. Secondary to the "Teacher Notes" is a student "Lab Handout" and "Checkout Questions" that can be used in its entirety or segmented.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • High School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS3-1 Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on conceptual understanding that changes in genetic material may result in making different proteins.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific changes at the molecular level, mechanisms for protein synthesis, or specific types of mutations.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson uses the "Argument-Driven Inquiry" model (ADI). If the educator is unfamiliar with this model there is Appendix 2 that will provide scaffolding for the writing component of the activity. Students begin by reading the guiding question provided and observing the simulation. After observation of the simulation, the students in groups will decide on the type of data to collect, the method of collection, and how to analyze the data collected in order to answer the guided question. The educator should make sure that the students do several observation runs of the simulation with and without mutations to observe the changes. Emphasis should be on the folding shape of the protein at the end of each simulation.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The simulation, in conjunction with the Argument-Driven Inquiry approach, provides a scaffold for constructing explanations for the student data. The scaffolding is provided by a Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning template approach that is explained in the "Teacher Notes" provided.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The student handout provides background information to facilitate the understanding that changes in the genetics of an individual, mutations, will lead to variation within a population. This along with the background material provided for the educator, will directly lead to the core idea variation due to genetic mutations.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Within the simulations, students will be able to visualize the connection between the structure of DNA and the changes to the protein created. By observing and collecting data during several simulations, the students will also see the changes associated with changes in DNA, i.e. mutations. To align the simulation and data with the crosscutting concept the educator should review these concepts during the explicit and reflective discussion questions.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The science and engineering practice, disciplinary core idea, and crosscutting concept, work together to support students in three-dimensional learning to make sense of the effect of structural changes in proteins due to mutations. The three dimensions work together to support students to make sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions to problems. The inclusion of claim, evidence, and reasoning in conjunction with the Argument-Driven approach allows the educator to provide the opportunity for students understanding.

  • Instructional Supports: This activity provides the opportunities for students to express, clarify, justify, and interpret their ideas and respond to peer and teacher feedback both orally and in written form. The simulation engages students in authentic and meaningful scenarios that reflect the practice of science and engineering as experienced in the real world.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The extensive teacher notes, the appendix that supports the Argument-Driven Inquiry approach, and thoroughness of the instructions, provides multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding of the performance expectation, disciplinary core idea, and crosscutting concepts. There are multiple opportunities for educator monitoring of progress.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The simulation is very interactive and allows for students to be the facilitator of their learning. The instructions are very minimal so that the student must discover and work with the phenomena of mutations.