ASM events
This conference is managed by the American Society for Microbiology
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Teaching Responsibilities

Course

Level

# of Students in my classes

Types of Students

% under-represented/ underserved

Computer literacy

freshman

40/semester

all

5%

Computer applications – spreadsheet design

freshman

20/year

Open to all: typically information-processing minors, marketing majors

5%

Web page development (HTML)

sophomore

25/year

Computer science, graphic design, others interested

5%

Introductory programming (Visual Basic)

Freshman

80/year

Computer science, other science majors

5%

Ecommerce

Senior

12/year

Computer Science / Information Assurance majors

5%

Independent research projects

multiple

1-5 / semester

Computer science majors

5%

 

Student Learning Challenge or Problem
Is knowledge of experimental design enhanced by collaboration? Does engaged participation in the collection and preparation of samples to be used in a study improve student learning? The University of Findlay’s biology and computer science departments have implemented an approach to promote the bioinformatics discipline and facilitate the teaching of basic computer skills as a scientific research tool. Assessing the impact of this approach will provide feedback for modifying the approach.

The microbiology course designed a semester long study on antibiotic resistance patterns in the Blanchard River in Hancock County, Ohio. The course required environmental sampling, culturing, molecular techniques, and bioinformatics tools. The computer science class aided in data sheet design, table and figure creation, and general presentation of results. The student groups collaborated by means of face-to-face class sessions, Google Docs, and Blackboard Communities. The projects resulted in poster presentations at a regional science conference and a newspaper article highlighting the project.

In the first two years of the study, students self-reported changes in knowledge, skills, and dispositions, and also evaluated the performance of their team. In this third year of the study, students were pre- and post-tested on knowledge of experimental design, to determine actual gains in knowledge of the scientific method. A control group of microbiology students taking the course in a semester without the hands-on preparation for the study, and lacking a computer science class with which to collaborate, was also given the pre-test. They will be post-tested at the end of the Spring 2012 term.

It was anticipated that the senior level microbiology students would score higher on the pretest than the freshman level computer students, and that both groups would improve modestly on the post test. It was also anticipated that the Spring 2012 control group would initially score comparably to the Fall 2011 microbiology students, but would not increase as much on the post test score. Although the analysis is in its preliminary stages, it appears that the Fall microbiology students did score better that the computer students, pre- and post-test. Unfortunately, it appears that the overall average for each Fall class is slightly lower on the post-test than the pre-test. The students learned what they did in their experiments so well that they wanted to apply their methods in every situation, even when they did not apply.

 

Professional Development Goals

I have been working collaboratively with biology faculty on several projects for a number of years, and I think there is a great deal to be learned at the intersection of the disciplines. How we teach students in our disciplines may impact their ability to work with others in their future research and careers. The scientific advances of the future may well require interdisciplinary teams to try new approaches based on a blend of methods and insights from the respective areas.

I am interested in attending this residency with Dr. Bethany Henderson-Dean, as we have worked on a collaborative project developed at the ASM 2009 Spring Bioinformatics Institute. We developed a poster for the 2011 ASMcue conference, and there discovered someone working with more formal assessment methods for biology learning projects at an institution near our university. We have implemented additional assessment into our activities, and are gathering the preliminary results. We would eventually like to prepare a publication based on our work.

Determining the best ways to instill knowledge, skills, and dispositions for success in the sciences is of very practical interest. Learning whether adding computer skills to the biologists’ training, or preparing computer scientists to work with the biologists, may be competing or complementary strategies. As our institution works to implement a bioinformatics preparatory curriculum, I want to be able to prepare potential students for the challenges of such a program. Studying effective pedagogy for the sciences will improve our ability to deliver a quality program, and contribute to the literature in the field.

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