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2010 ASMCUE Abstract (Draft)

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Does Experiential Learning Impact Students’ Career Awareness, Appreciation of the Microbial World, and Motivation in Microbiology Courses? 

N. Cheeptham* and N. Flood, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, Canada 


Project Description 

We would like to compare the results of short (5 questions) pre- and post-tests taken by students in two microbiology courses to see if their experiences in these courses—specifically their experience in organized field trips--has an impact on their motivation, their understanding of certain aspects of microbiology, and their awareness of possible microbiology-related careers.  The students involved will be taking either BIOL 220 (Introductory Microbiology II) or BIOL 449 (Industrial Microbiology) in the winter semester of 2010 (January to April).  There are 3 field trips in each course and students will complete pre and post tests for each trip; 3 questions are for all tests, while two that are designed specifically to fit topics covered in each field trip (questions are the same in both pre and post tests).  Comparisons between pre and post tests will be done for each trip, within each course separately, and between courses.  We will also ask the students for their opinion on the value of field trips in a brief survey at the end of each course.  


This project will help us evaluate the impact of field trips on student learning in lower- and upper-level microbiology courses.  More specifically, it will help us decide whether field trips are a valuable component of the course and if some trips contribute more to the course than others. It will also allow us to determine if this type of experiential learning is more useful than lectures at (i) dispelling some common misconceptions about microbiology (e.g., all microbes are “bad”) and (ii) broadening students’ awareness of career possibilities in microbiology.   


Since our organized field trips will happen in March 2010, at this point we do not have any results yet. 


Potential benefits 

This information will help design an effective and efficient microbiology curriculum.  It will allow us to decide if field trips are pedagogically beneficial in general, if some are better than others, and if improvement in trip design, length or focus would be useful.  It will thus allow us to use limited resources efficiently.  The data may reveal that trips are not worth the time, effort and cost involved or that they are; in the latter instance, this study may provide a powerful argument for continuing field trips. 


 *Corresponding and presenting author 

Naowarat Cheeptham (Ann), Ph.D.
Assistant Professor (2009 ASM/NSF Biology Scholar)
Thompson Rivers University, Box 3010 - 900 McGill Road
Kamloops, BC, Canada
V2C 5N3 

Tel: 250-371-5891
Fax: 250-828-5450













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