At a Glance


  • STEM
  • Biology

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP
  • University

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Group

Type of Tasks

  • Solving problems
  • Analyzing
  • Creating & designing
  • Reading
  • Taking a quiz & test

Technical Details

Useful Technologies

  • Clickers

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building
  • Assessment & knowledge refinement


In this activity, students learn how to construct phylogenetic trees based on evolutionary traits using three different example scenarios.

Prior to class, students complete pre-assigned readings and watch videos related to the class material. They perform a quiz through Moodle to test their understanding from the readings and videos.

During class, groups of students (2-3) are tasked with designing phylogenetic trees for three different scenarios of increasing difficulty. Groups discuss and compare their trees for each scenario, which allows students to evaluate each other’s work and to also self-correct their own trees. In groups, students answer questions based on the phylogenetic trees they have constructed. These questions help them to think about the process of building trees based on data. Once complete, students individually answer clicker questions that are designed to test their understanding of the material, as well as encourage them to analyze new scenarios and apply the concepts they’ve learned.

Finally, students are given a set of practice questions to use for their own study purposes outside of class.

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the evolutionary relationships between animals
  • In teams, construct a phylogenic tree

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

Edward Awad

Edward Awad

Vanier College, Montreal


Students appreciate the activity because they practice with three different examples (with the first 2 complementing each other) to understand how evolutionary relatedness through phylogenetic traits is used in the construction of phylogenetic trees. Students enjoy building the trees as they learn about phylogeny while also having fun.

Some of the questions accompanying the activity are used to address misconceptions about evolution and the interpretation of phylogenetic trees.


Students in general do not find this activity challenging. However, some students struggle with the interpretation of evolutionary relationships even after successfully completing the activity.

Students feel the need to practice further and often request more practice questions.

Keeping students on task and on time is always a challenge, as some students get overwhelmed with reading and following somewhat lengthy written instructions.


Keep students on task by using a visual timer (e.g., a computer clock on smart board), and by reminding them how much time they have left to complete the activity.

Applied Strategies


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