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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. 

Microbiology will be my target course at the Institute. 

 What constraints influence how you teach this course?  

There are a few constraints to teaching Microbiology. The first is that the class can be large. At present, I am generally teaching two sections at a time, but in the past I have taught four sections in one lecture for a total of close to 80 students. When I have two sections, I can give exams that include essays and short answers. With four sections, exams are all multiple choice. The second issue is that although the course is required for both the Biology and Biotechnology majors, the effort put forth by the students is minimal at best. I find it difficult to move on to challenging concepts if students are having difficulty remembering basic concepts such as the differences between prokaryote and eukaryote cell structure.

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

The majority of students work as technicians in local biotechnology companies after graduation. I want them to be able to following verbal and written directions, develop basic microbiology skills such as pouring plates, aseptic technique, and preparing slides. In lecture, they should master the basic fundamental concepts of microbiology (as recommended by the American Society of Microbiology) and be able to critically analyze research data.


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

As part of the lab, students have to identify an unknown organism and do a group project. With the unknown, critical thinking skills are necessary to determine what tests should be done as part of a dichotomous key. The group project requires students to design a set of experiments (including controls!) and then present the results of those experiments to the class. It provides the opportunity for students to practice communication skills and work with others. Mastery of microbiology concepts is assessed through exams. Exams are designed so that students have to explain their answers in the form of short answers and essays and sometimes they have to analyze research results. 

I also designed an evaluation form containing the course learning outcomes. I score each student at the end of the semester in regard to the learning outcomes.

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

1. I would like to develop assignments and assessment tools to teach students "how to learn" (from the assigned reading). 

2. I would like to explore the idea of a portfolio or something of that nature as a follow up to the assessment learning outcome rubric I am currently using in the class.

3. I would like to see if the final exam currently used to assess student knowledge of the course should be replaced or used in conjunction with an alternative assessment tool. 


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