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Reading Reflections

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  • Identify and describe one of your courses that will serve as your “project course” for the work you do at the Institute. 

I plan to use Introduction to Microbiology Laboratory (Micrb202) as my project course. A colleague and I redesigned and taught a section of our department's standard intro lab course this past year. The new course is an inquiry-based lab with 8 lab modules. The students design their own experiments within the parameters of each module and must develop hypotheses, controls, predictions, collect and analyze data. The experiments build in complexity throughout the semester. We start by exploring the environmental requirements for growth of mold spores by providing students with a spray bottle with mold spores and a variety of types of bread. The semester ends with the student purifying P. acnes and bacteriophage that infect P. acnes from their faces then designing experiments to test the antibiotic sensitivity of the P. acnes and host range of the phage. We have tried to cover a lot of the basic microbiological techniques and concepts with different experiments in the course.

  • What constraints influence how you teach this course?  (e.g., large class size, laboratory format, non-majors) 

I am teaching a section of this course to 30-35 undergraduates, mostly freshmen who are majors (Biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and biotechnology). I will hopefully have an undergraduate TA. This is the first course in the major. Some may or may not have had intro chem lab.

  • What do you hope the students will learn in your course?

The following is lifted directly from the syllabus.

Overall Goals

By the end of the course students will:

- have a strong foundation in scientific inquiry and be prepared to apply skills in future science courses

- be able to evaluate issues in "real-life" making them life-long educated consumers of science

- have the technical skills and fundamental concepts to address important questions confrunting microbiologists in a variety of professions from medicine to environmental microbiology

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the course student will be able to:

Scientific method- 1) formulate a clear and interesting question about the microbial world, 2) develop a testable hypothesis, 3) choose appropriate methods to address the hypothesis, 4) evaluate and synthesize experimental data, 5) present data and conclusions

Experimental techniques- 1) use sterile techniques, 2) perform key microbiology methods, 3) work in the laboratoy following appropriate lab safety procedures

Concepts of microbiology- 1) identify and unknown microbe using a variety of methods, 2) explain how selection and mutation are integral to microbial evolution, 3) describe how the environment influcence microbial growth, behavior, and interactions 

  • How do you determine whether students have achieved the learning you describe in question #3?

- lab reports and group oral presentations for each module

- daily notebook checks for hypothesis, controls, predictions, observations, data recording, conclusions, etc. before leaving class

- Students have to keep a "pet microbe" alive for the semester, figure out it's name using a variety of micro methods, turn in a plate with isolated colonies and no contamination.

  • Provide a list of 3–4 specific assessment strategies you are most interested in exploring during the Assessment Institute?

Better way to organize and assess lab reports.

Some way to assess learning of scientific method- now we just help them form hypotheses for each experiment informally in the classroom through one-on-one interactions.

Some way to assess that they are getting the concepts along with the techniques and integrating the two.

Ideally I want to avoid tests and practicums. We try to make the lab environment as close to a real research environment as we can.

I would also like to develop some assessments to evaluate the success of the course overall, perhaps comparing it to the sections of the course taught in the standard (cookbook) way.

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