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New Tricks for Old Genes Teachable Tidbit (Regulation of Gene Expression)


In this activity, students learn about gene expression and how different genes are active and inactive in different tissues of the body. They will also explore how microarrays work, and will explore the relationships that exist between gene expression and cancer as well as epigenetics. As part of this tidbit, students will work in groups to complete a worksheet as the activity progresses, watch online videos, use online interactive media, and participate in discussions, 











                                                           Scientific Teaching at a Glance..

Active Learning




use of lecture questions, instructor-guided class discussions, inter-group discussions that involve comparison of results, pre-class activities, an in-class activity.  

Assessments, approaches, and content are aligned with initially developed learning outcomes (see below)

Summative Assessment

  • Students will submit completed activity sheet to TA/instructor 
  • Outcome aligned exam questions provided

Formative Assessments/Activities:

  • Students work in groups to identify components of transcription regulation of gene expression
  • Student groups complete tables and answer questions of differential gene expression
  • hybridization of cDNA sequence to microarray plate to demonstrate base pairing understanding
  • Students receive/provide feedback during think-pair-share question in activity sheet
  • Diversity of teaching materials
  • Diversity in activity types
  • Activities accommodate various learning styles
  • Groups are diverse culturally, racially and  in terms of gender
  • Care was taken to ensure that words that ostracize different groups are not used



Files associated with this Teachable Tidbit can be downloaded directly using these links:

New Tricks Old Genes Executive Summary

New Tricks Old Genes Exam Questions

New Tricks Old Genes Instructor Material

New Tricks Old Genes Student Material

New Tricks Old Genes Presentation (PowerPoint)


Activity Details:


-          Lubomira Cubonova (

-          Insiya Fidai (

​-          Wilberforce Ouma (

​-          Tasha Wilkie (

-          Facilitated by Sarah Ball


​​Learning Goal(s):

  • Understand that all cells in an organism contain the same full set of genes in their genomes
  • Know the relationship between DNA, genes and proteins
  • Understand differential gene expression, and how the process is regulated (different levels of regulation)
  • Understand how differences in gene expression can lead to different cellular and organismal outcomes
  • Understand pathophysiological effects of deregulation of gene expression on cells (cancer)
  • Understand how to measure gene expression (microarray technology)

Learning Outcomes:

 Students should be able to….       

  • Identify and label the components of transcriptional regulation of gene expression
  • Identify that all tissues contain the genes (with the exception of the SRY gene found only in typical males)
  • Identify genes which will be turned “On” or “Off” in a specialized cell based on a given description
  • Identify housekeeping genes based on a given description
  • Identify genes which may be involved in lung cancer based on a given description
  • Identify the complementary sequence of a given gene sequence
  • Analyze microarray and develop sound conclusions based on results

How Diversity is Specifically Addressed:

  • Diversity of teaching materials- Students will be provided with reading assignment and links to media resources for relevant background related to the unit
  • Activities allow for participation of all students in the course/session through individual/independent activities(virtual lab), brainstorming, small groups, larges groups (think-pair-share)
  • Activities accommodate various learning styles
  • Activities are designed to be executed in groups, which are diverse culturally, racially and gender
  • Care was taken to ensure that words that ostracize different groups are not used

Activity Timeline:

Pre-class activity

This is a one-day teachable unit that begins with a pre-class activity. Materials in this teachable unit are geared towards enabling students have a practical understanding of regulation of gene expression at transcription level. This will reinforce what will have been covered in lecture on gene expression and regulation of gene expression. As part of a pre-class activity, students will be required to watch a video on gene expression ( n/dna_transcription_regulation.htm) and an interactive media on regulation of gene expression ( ion/newtricks/).


Day 1 Activity

Students will then be asked to answer section A questions in the ‘Gene expression activity’ to test their understanding of common players that are involved in gene expression based on the two aforementioned assigned videos. This will be followed by an introduction to patterns of gene expression in genes implicated on cancer pathophysiology, and an introduction to the microarray technology (see the tidbit presentation). Students will then work in groups to execute the microarray activity following instructions stipulated in the microarray activity document. This will run concurrently with answering questions related to the activity. The answered questions can either be collected for grading purposes or answers discussed in class.

As a conclusion, students will asked to think of other ways in which gene expression can be regulated. A brief discussion of epigenetic control of gene expression will follow.