This monograph is based on a study that looked at the teaching and learning of genetics at the introductory level in the University of Adelaide to investigate student difficulties in understanding genetics, and to determine the effectiveness of introducing changes to promote understanding. A systemic approach was adopted, as the investigation was in a natural setting in which many variables were beyond the control of the researcher. Preliminary investigations established the parameters for designing, implementing, monitoring and modifying innovations which were based on current learning theories. The innovations included concept mapping and collaborative learning to overcome common misconceptions, and assessment that supported understanding of scientific concepts. A holistic view of teaching and learning shows a complex process, subject to strong influences from within and outside a department. The results of this study raise questions about some common research approaches into higher education, and support the argument that educational research that is focussed on the natural setting is important for providing authenticity for the results of innovations in artificial environments.