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ASMCUE 09 presentation

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Teaching Science in Microbiology: an Inquiry-based Learning Approach.
C.M. Burke. University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
Frustrated by students adopting surface approaches to learning microbiology, an inquiry-based learning (IBL) approach, in which students learned in a scientific manner, was developed. The principal goal was for students to learn how to think like a professional microbiologist, rather than as a novice. This enabled them to place the syllabus into a framework which would link and support major concepts into a whole greater than the sum of the parts. The learning objectives were changed from specific microbiological content to learning how to think scientifically within a microbiology context. The course was Applied and Environmental Microbiology and was taught in year 2 to non-microbiology majors as follow-up unit to introductory microbiology. Student enrolments were 14 in the didactic course and 17 in the IBL course. The teaching program was moved from didactic lecturing to a practice in which students investigated the syllabus by answering questions that would lead them through the material. Questions could be answered from the textbook or provided literature, by group discussion of case scenarios or by problem solving associated with real data sets. Students had to be actively involved with their learning to construct their knowledge, rather than be passive recipients. Grade distributions did not vary significantly before and after the change in teaching approach, but the level of assessment in the final exam did increase as seen by a SOLO analysis. The proportion of marks allocated to a unistructural level of cognition decreased from 41% to 20%, and the proportion of relational level marks increased from 32 to 51%. Student evaluations of the course indicated that strong scaffolding of the syllabus was essential to support good understanding of the content. Students who performed poorly stated that the syllabus was not well signposted, so that they could not easily link different sections of the syllabus. Staff who peer-reviewed a lesson were similarly concerned, as well as with the reduction in content necessitated by the IBL approach. Importantly, the IBL approach gives students skills in framing questions for further learning within microbiology.
Chris Burke +61-3-63243806.


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Excellent, Chris. It certainly makes me want to learn more. Just confirmation: when you say "The proportion of marks allocated...", are you referring to the SOLO analysis on the final exam? Was the final exam the only assessment or did the measured learning increase in other assessments as well? I think this is a good point to make clearly since the grade distributions did not change.
Posted 10:03, 12 Feb 2009
third sentence: "this should enable" would make more sense to me. Immediately after that sentence, I would suggest saying "in order to test this idea, we changed our teaching program from didactic..." the ideas seem a bit jumbled up at the beginning to me--not logical progression from what you wanted to test to what you did using which classes. Second to last sentence doesn't make sense the way it's written, but last sentence is a nice conclusion.
Posted 16:48, 14 Feb 2009
Thanks Bethany and Jenny. It is interesting to see how what appears so clear to the writer may not be so clear to the reader. I'll take your points on board and do some editing. To answer your question, Bethany. Yes the solo analysis was done on the final exam because it was the main one in which students had to work alone and was worth 50% of the total marks, so covered the whole course. I didn't do the solo analysis during the course, because the tests came very shortly after the lessons, and so the students had little time to digest their learning. Basically, what I am trying to say is that to achieve the same level of grade as the didactic class, the IBL class had to work harder, because their exam was harder.
Posted 10:49, 15 Feb 2009
Chris, it is neat to read how your idea has evolved since last summer too, especially in light of all those data you had! I would re-read with a fresh eye for jargon, such as scaffolding, signposted, and unistructural. I'm not sure what unistructural means myself.

Best, Anne-Marie
Posted 17:17, 15 Feb 2009
Hi Chris- I don't know what the word count is for the abstract but you may need to cut it down a bit. I agree with Anne- Marie about some of the terminology, I don't know what some of the terms mean. I like that you can compare the class using two difference approaches in the same semester- it makes for a well-controlled study. Best wishes, Maureen
Posted 18:16, 15 Feb 2009
Hi Chris,
I agree with the comments about jargon and would add SOLO to that list. I think the sentence in the middle, "Students had to be actively involved with their learning..." belongs more towards the end as part of a discussion/conclusion.
Posted 13:03, 16 Feb 2009
Hi Chris,
Enjoyed reading about your work. Nice to see the progress when I am still wading through the first step. With regard to specific abstract content- I think the word syllabus is misleading. Perhaps the term course content or course outline would better convey your meaning. I think the comments above are also helpful. It would be nice if you could come up with a positive ending (well if you think it is worthwhile even with the loss of content). Building livelong learners (ie they can learn the specific content when they find they need it) might be worth the trade off. The discussion section will provide plenty of space to go through the pros and cons. If you want another read you can send it straight to me and I will get back to you. edited 08:18, 17 Feb 2009
Posted 08:17, 17 Feb 2009
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