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Pre SoTL assignments

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Maureen Knabb

West Chester University, West Chester, PA

Assignment #1: Introductions

1) Describe your teaching responsibilities and the type of student you


I have been teaching at West Chester University for 22 years in both biology majors

and non-majors courses. My primary responsibilities include General Biology for

majors and non-majors (approx 350 students/year), Anatomy and Physiology (250

students/ year, non-majors), Human Physiology (16/ year, majors), Cell Physiology,

and Biology seminar. The WCU students are really wonderful individuals who lead

incredibly busy lives trying to balance school and work. Most need to work to pay for


2) Describe what you would like to take home as a result of attending

the institute

I applied to the SoTL institute to gain more experience in gathering and analyzing

data for pedagogy research. I have always been interested in developing strategies

for improving student learning. In particular, I enjoy developing inquiry-based

activities in the laboratory to engage students in the scientific approach. I have

been successful in modifying curriculum to accomplish this goal but I can improve in

my assessment of these curricular changes.

3) Tell us about your interests outside of the classroom and a book that

you've read recently

Outside of the classroom, I enjoy working in the garden, the beach, dancing.

Summer is my favorite season. I have 4 children, 3 sons and a daughter, and I

spend as much time with them as I can. They are mostly grown, my youngest son

will be a senior in high school next year. When he goes off to college the

following year, I plan to go to Mexico for a sabbatical to work in the area of

cardiovascular research. This will be an exciting and challenging adventure for me.

I am currently reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. Barbara

and her family decided to eat locally for a year and the book describes their

experience with this eating strategy. It was a way to decrease the carbon footprint

of their food. I am enjoying this book because I am gaining ideas about how I can

use more local foods. The recipes are easy and insights of her family are also quite


Assignment #2 Reflections

1) How would you describe your “research problem(s)” to the Research

Scholars group?

My general research problem is accurately defining student learning objectives and

developing the most effective assessment instruments to measure positive

outcomes. For example, I am constantly striving to incorporate student-driven,

hands-on lab activities in my courses and hope that these curricular changes

enhance student learning. I define learning as increasing knowledge of content and

scientific process. My goal is that students will learn course content better using this

approach but it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of this strategy. The question

2) What theme(s) based on your readings, resonate with your “problem”

and/or your proposed approach to address your problem?

Our institution prioritizes the teacher-scholar model and I used Boyer’s scholarship

definition in my promotion application. For those of you still working through the

tenure and promotion process, these readings are very important. It is necessary for

you to highlight your contributions to the scholarship of teaching as an important

component of your scholarly activities, particularly in an academic setting which

requires a large number of contact hours.

3) Which of the 12 properties of SoTL in microbiology education proposed

by S. Benson’s article are particularly relevant to your project at this stage?

Of the 12 properties of teaching and learning in microbiology education proposed by

Benson, the most relevant to me are reflective practice (1), documentation and

dissemination (2, 3), previous work (4), exchange of information (6), problemcentric

(8), engagement (10), and interdisciplinary (11). I believe that I have

followed many of these properties in my teaching scholarship. An area for

improvement for me would be in creating connections to other disciplines (11). The

use of case studies would help me address this weakness.

4) Do you have any questions/concerns/comments that have evolved from

your reading?

Craig Nelson’s article was particularly relevant to me because the research question

that I am posing for next semester involves the use of case studies in physiology

education. He describes two cases from law journals that he found particularly

provocative. I started using case studies in Human Physiology last year and the

students really enjoyed them. However, I did not establish a structured format for

solving the problems that emerged from the case. I presented the case, the

students brainstormed questions to ask about the case, and they researched the

answers outside of the classroom. The students mostly worked together outside of

class (and were encouraged to do so) and the answers to the case served as one

component of each exam. I did not use class time to solve the case or create a

discussion board for student interaction. I would like to compare methods for using

cases and determine which method is most effective. In addition, I would like to

create cases that lead students to perform research in other fields (like microbiology,

genetics, or biochemistry) as well as reflect on the social implications of the


5) What do you see as tangible products to be developed as a result of your

Scholars experience within the next 12 months?

The products that I see emerging from this project are two-fold. First, I hope to

develop new case studies in physiology that are challenging and encourage

6) What do you see yourself presenting at the follow-up session at ASMCUE


I hope to present the results of this work at ASMCUE 2009.

7) What will you need to develop these products?

I need help to identify good interdisciplinary physiology cases as well as an

assessment instrument to compare delivery format.

Assignment #3 Annotations

For my project, I hope to develop new case studies in physiology that are challenging

and encourage interdisciplinary thinking. In addition, I plan to develop a format for

presenting case studies that can be assessed for effective learning of content. I

searched for references to obtain ideas for interdisciplinary physiology cases as well

as an assessment instrument to compare delivery format.

1. The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science Case Collection,

This website provides access to hundreds of cases in all areas of science. The use of

case studies holds great promise as a pedagogical technique for teaching science,

particularly to undergraduates, because it develops students’ skills in group learning,

speaking, and critical thinking. Many of the cases are based on contemporary—and

often contentious—science problems that students encounter in the news. The

National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science promotes the development and

dissemination of innovative materials for case teaching.

I am currently involved in a project with Kipp Herreid investigating the use of "clicker

cases" in large introductory biology courses. I have written two cases in the areas of

meiosis and metabolism. Since I plan to use cases in my physiology course next

semester, I need to review the many relevant physiology cases on this website.

2. W. H. Cliff and A. W. Wright. Directed case study method for teaching human

anatomy and physiology. Advan. Physiol. Ed. 270: 19S-28S, 1996

This article describes some general features of successful

human A and P course: clear learning objectives, a concise and informative scenario,

straightforward and didactic questions, and an emphasis on information readily

available to the student. The format used by the authors involved the presentation

of a case at the beginning of each new topic. The students were required to turn in

their responses to the questions at the end of the unit and their responses were

graded. The integration of the cases improved student learning and exam

performance. The authors describe their methods for integrating the cases into their

two semester course.

I was disappointed to see that the only data presented were exam scores. I could

not tell if the exam questions were the same as in the previous year. Because I am

teaching an upper level course, I plan to have the students develop their own

questions (in the directed method, the questions are given). I did see value in the

specific example of the allergic response case and could potentially modify it for my


3. Patrick Field. Variations on an Historical Case Study: The Extraordinary

Accident of Isidro Mejia. Journal of College Science Teaching, 36 (2) p21-25.


This article describes the case of Isidro Mejia, a construction worker who had six

nails accidentally shot into his head from a nail gun. On April 19, 2004, Isidro Mejia

was working construction on the roof of a house when he lost his footing on the

scaffolding and fell on top of another worker, who was using an automatic, highpowered

nail gun. As the man holding the nail gun tried to regain his balance to

prevent himself from falling off the second floor, he grabbed Mejia, tumbled on to

him, and discharged the pressure-sensitive nail gun into his head and body. This

particular nail gun is extremely powerful, as it has to drive nails into two-inch by

four-inch wooden planks, enough power to penetrate through bone. Upon impact,

the nail gun drove six 3 1/2 inch nails into Mejia's head, face, and neck within


In this article, there are activities for introductory undergraduate biology students

with a minimal background in central nervous system (CNS) anatomy to advanced

undergraduate/graduate neuroscience students with extensive knowledge of the

structures and functions of the CNS. Because this article describes how to adapt a

news story to different levels of student knowledge, it should be helpful as I adapt

case studies to my course.

4. Berne, R.M, and Levy M.N. Case Studies in Physiology. Mosby 1994.

This book is filled with case studies in physiology. Although it is intended primarily for

medical students, it should provide many relevant examples that could be used

directly or adapted for my course. In addition, Berne was my Ph.D. advisor so I like

to get his books.

5. Cliff, W.H. Case Study Analysis and the Remediation of Misconceptions about

Respiratory Physiology. Advances in Physiology Education, 30(4) p215-223


This case study was used to help students learn about oxygen transport in the blood

and reverse misconceptions about respiratory physiology. The authors identified 4

misconceptions and, through pre- and post- course testing, were able to determine

that their use of a case study concerning carbon monoxide poisoning successfully

helped students remediate one misconception. The pre-, mid-, and post- questions

developed by the authors were helpful and the statistical analysis of the data

provided convincing evidence that the students learned the material concerning

oxygen transport better with the case study approach. The paper provided a good

model for assessment of student learning using case studies.

directed cases in a
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