Student Inquiry Into Cellular Respiration

This lesson was designed by Barbara Fritz. The lesson is designed on the premise that students have already learned basic cell structure and function.
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In this POGIL lesson, students construct their own learning about the process of cellular respiration through critical analysis of a paper model. Students will work in groups with assigned roles. The 3 major steps of cellular respiration and the primary reactants and products of each step will be elucidated. Students generate examples of the importance of cellular respiration in maintaining human health and wellness.

Learning Goals

Students will employ critical thinking skills by analyzing models. Students will carry out problem solving by formulating answers to questions based on model analysis. Students will practice writing skills by communicating situations in which the function of cellular respiration is directly related to human health and wellness. Students will practice group cooperation as they work together to solve problems and relate this process to human health.

Context for Use

This lesson is directed to general biology students in the college setting. It is appropriate for a lecture class in which groups of 4 can be facilitated. I typically use one hour to introduce the activity and allow students to complete the inquiry and then offer another 20 minute session to revisit the activity in large group. All groups may make desired revisions to their answers before submitting. Another option is to have each group complete a short question set allowing them to keep the activity as a study tool.
Students will have already learned about cell structure and basic function of organelles. There are no special materials needed for this activity.

Description and Teaching Materials

The pictoral diagrams that you will need should be available in any biology text book. The critical thinking questions and application questions were generated by me.
A Powerpoint with some additional introductory photos you may find useful. (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 253kB Feb25 10)
Cellular Respiration Critical Thinking Questions and Application Problems. (Microsoft Word 26kB Feb25 10)
Jitt Activity to Introduce the Action of NAD+ (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 56kB Feb25 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The students will benefit from a review of mitochondrial structure and basic function. Also, you may want to use the included JiTT activity to introduce redox reactions. I provide a model of the reduction of NAD+. It is helpful to orient them to the model and complete one critical thinking question as a group. Review group formation and effectivness at


Doing this as a group activity allows self assessment for students. We may cover the answers as a group after they have submitted a copy of their answers. I collect and evaluate the application questions using a simple rubric. There are rubrics for group evaluation available at