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Assignment #4
Annotated Bibliography

1. Smith, CB, “Using the Cell Signaling Literature to teach Molecular Biology to Undergraduates”, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 30(6): 380-383, 2002.

This article is content specific to my topic, cell signaling.  It describes a "constructivist" instructional approach that includes 1) introducing typical categories of cell signaling molecules, 2) instruction on laboratory techniques/protocols commonly used to identify and study these molecules, and 3) challenges to student understanding of protocols using “what-if I add this” type questions.  All students read a primary literature article that focuses on a signaling molecule-of-the-week and research technique, while two students present selected data from the article.  All students take a short quiz following the discussion.  At the end of the year students present posters on a signaling molecule of their choice supported by data from the primary literature.  This article presents the details of a one-week study on one type of signaling molecule (transcription factors).  The author also explains the breakdown for the grading (5% class participation, 5% from group lead presentations, 15% for quizzes and 20% for the end of semester poster).  The article clearly presents the steps involved in this approach, but does not offer assessment data on the success of this approach relative to other ways of teaching this content.  Although this article describes a different way of approaching the problem than what I plan to develop, it offers important features to include in my assignment such as identifying common components and the research techniques used to learn about them.

2. Klionsky, DJ, “An interactive exercise to learn eukaryotic cell structure and organelle function, ” American Biology Teacher 61: 539-542, 1999.

This article discusses the development of a cooperative problem solving learning exercise that makes learning about cell structures more memorable.  It describes a process to generate (random assignment to avoid cliques) and manage groups, a technique to foster responses by all members of a group (general daily-life topics discussed on the first day), and to assure that all have a chance to the lead the discussion by rotating the group spokesman role.  It describes the assignment itself (a bathysphere trip through a cell) guided by recordings of a "navigational system" as the ship transverses across cell/organelle membranes and encounters specific environments (concentrations) of macromolecules (i.e., carbohydrates or phosphates) and pH.  Students use a rough cell diagram to "map" their journey and justify their choice of location based on the navigation system's chart recordings.  The authors report that the traveled route solutions varied among and within the student groups prompting discussions to support the choice of one organelle or another.  Students were reportedly "engaged" and group discussions elaborated on material that brought about better understanding of the dynamic nature of transport in a cell as well as organelle composition and function.  This article is useful for its information on the dynamics of organizing and implementing group work.

3. Weimer, M, Learning-Centered Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 1st ed., 2002 and
Blumberg, P, Developing Learning Centered Teaching: A Practical Guide for Faculty, Jossey-Bass, 1st ed., 2009.

As I skimmed through articles for my project, I repeatedly encountered educational terminology such as constructivism, problem-based learning, learner-centered-teaching, cooperative learning and active learning.  I choose to follow-up on learner-centered-teaching, because I was unfamiliar with this terminology and wanted to focus on the student's actions in the acquisition of content.  I discovered the Weimer and Blumberg texts side-by-side in the library and quickly saw that the Weimer text was more theoretical and the Blumberg text more practical. 

The Weimer text preceded the Blumberg text and she wrote the Foreword for the latter text. Weimer discusses how this approach changes the dynamics of the classroom by altering the balance of power from faculty centered to shared teacher student control, but warns that attempting this method in an entire course meets with resistance from students accustomed to having information "laid out" for them. 

Blumberg's text contrasts conventional and learner-centered teaching in table formats that identify at a glance what the transition from instructor-centered to learner-centered teaching might look like.  To assist in the transformation of a course or learning module Blumberg provides template-like rubrics to evaluate the status of a course or learning module on a continuum from instructor-centered to learning-centered.  Many examples of courses employing the technique are presented throughout the text.  Toward the end of the text, Blumberg, lists ideas to consider when deciding to adopt a learner-centered approach.  She explains that courses may contain learner-centered components, but not all of the course may be consistent with this approach.
One topic I skimmed in this text with an eye toward my project included assessment of learning.  Consistent with a learner-centered approach this emphasized integration of assessment within the learning process, formative assessment, peer and self-assessment, multiple opportunities to learn from mistakes, asking for justification of students answers, time for feedback and authentic assessments (real world type problems such as case studies). 

Both texts stimulated me to consider the mechanics of the classroom with an eye toward providing multiple learning opportunities that address the same information.

4. Wage, KE, Buck, JR, Wright, CH, Welch, TB, " The Signal and Systems Concept Inventory," IEEE Transactions on Education, 48(3), 2005.

This article discusses the development of an assessment tool to evaluate student learning and misconceptions regarding topics in signal processing.  Although the article is specific to engineering courses on systems analysis, it made me consider what should go into question construction for the assessment of my project.  The authors remark that many courses test for student's problem solving abilities rather than conceptual understanding, but expect that the concepts are understood and retained.  Using a model developed by physics instructors the authors suggest that an inventory of concepts should be developed for standard signaling information that is agreed upon by the engineering community and an exam created to address these concepts.  Their research study focused on 1) the development of a concept inventory and examination, 2) using the exam results to generate a baseline statistic across similar courses from many institutions, 3) characterize common misconceptions that can be targeted for special instructional attention and 4) develop statistical correlations between success in previous academic performance as a predictor of success on the concept exam.  Designing questions for the exam involved careful consideration of each concept as well as misconceptions (that were included in the distractors) in the multiple-choice format.  Four main issues were considered for each question: notational conventions (discipline specific abbreviations or terms), relative merits of single-concept versus synthesis questions, presentation modality (words, diagrams, and/or equations), and types of reasoning required (forward-reasoning or reverse-reasoning).  Each question was qualified in terms of what the student had to be able to do in order to answer this question. 

The article also summaries the types of quantifiable results such as normalized gain (post minus pre course test values/100-pre), which identifies the fraction of the available improvement in scores that is achieved during the course.  Concept-by-concept analysis, available from the difficulty index (% of students answering a question correctly), and analysis of wrong answers reveals persistent misconceptions.  The authors also used their data as a basis for correlation to the actual course grade or to prerequisite course grades.

This paper alerted me to issues I need to consider when crafting an assessment tool for my project and how to use some of the data generated from the project.  This was a well-funded and multi-year project that reminds the reader about the importance of constructing an assessment compatible to conceptual learning.  One appealing idea was mentioned during the alpha testing of question distractors.  Students were asked to "select from five prescribed choices for each question or to fill in a response of their own. This procedure allowed for the capture of novel distractors representing conceptual confusions unanticipated by the developers."  I thought this might be a good option for students to express why they did not pick any of the MCQ choices or how they would modify a choice to make it correct.  This might reduce the frequency of laments or explanations about why the question was "tricky" often expressed after students receive an exam grade.

5. Hunter, T, "Signaling--2000 and Beyond," Cell 100: 113-117, 2000.

This review article identifies major themes and principles in the history of signal transduction.  I choose it as a source for key concepts to include in my proposed activity.  It lists signal themes (G protein-coupled receptors, transmembrane signaling by phosphorylation, protein signaling modules, MAP kinase pathways, transcriptional regulation, nuclear receptors, phospholipid/ion based signaling) and identifies specific examples within each category.  The article is organized historically, but integrates history with cellular localization and mechanism of action of component parts.  This is an information dense article that is not appropriate for the beginning biology student.  It is a good summary reference, has some simple figures that emphasize the modular nature of cell signaling, focuses on eukaryotic signaling, but mentions some prokaryotic discoveries and discusses future areas of research. 

The information from this article fits well with ideas mentioned in other references that emphasize the necessity to begin a project by identifying core concepts or categories of information (cell signaling molecules), that provide the framework of clear well defined goals.

6. Maggert, K, "Reflective Document," Center for Teaching Excellence, Peer Review Project 2005–2006 ( Accessed July 1, 2009.

This online course portfolio was a real eye opener in terms of overall course preparation. The author is an assistant professor teaching a course in Molecular and Cellular Biology. He describes and provides examples of his teaching materials.  I was struck by the clarity and detail for assignment guidance for every class.  The instructor provides Reading Guides on textbook chapter information with prompts to self-assess student understanding.  Group work is established early in the course and readings from the primary literature are common.  The strategy is to allow students to read the articles at their own pace before class and work through the difficult parts as a group in-class.  One successful activity was to have one group explain their paper to another group. 

The author explains that the development of his course came from discussions with more experienced teachers in a Peer Review Project.  This is an inspirational model for a course or a teaching module where communication of clear guidelines and expectations for students is a goal.


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