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This conference is managed by the American Society for Microbiology

Day 1

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Today was a busy day, indeed.  It is at once exciting and also frustrating---it would be good to see models of what works well, but that might influence approaches and strategies.  One size does not fit all, as usual.

I am struck by efforts to create a sense of community and sharing among educators...and the enthusiasm of the instructor/facilitators is infectious.

I do worry a bit about how we interpret what we do.  Yes, process is important, but the factual framework is, as well.  As when I worked with the AP Biology folk, it is easy to completely move away from the prior styles of teaching, and thus throw out some good unintentionally.  A foreign language has structure and process, yes, but needs a framework of vocabulary.

Perhaps the best approach is to mirror recommendation discussed today.  I do indeed think it is important to state what we would like students to remember from a course---the "take away toolbox," so to speak.  Perhaps we should do the same with what we expect students to know/be able to do when they come to class.

The goal is to create a classroom environment where we facilitate learning. A colleague of mine from graduate school, Daniel Klionsky, does just that.  Here is a nice description (and some references) of Dan's approach:

Getting back to our workshop, I was excited to see how what I learned from Kimberly Tanner at ASMCUE dovetails into what we are learning at this Residency.

In essence, we are trying to help the students see the "image" of what we teach the same way we do:  process and facts working together (the iceberg versus ice cube model Patrice introduced).  I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of different styles of learning; I certainly have seen that in my classroom!

Janet spent some time with us on goals versus objectives versus otucomes; core concepts versus core competencies.

Things got a little fast today, and I am glad that the slides and handouts are on the wiki.

Carol's enthusiasm and good cheer carried the day.  It was challenging to "work up" and "unpack" some learning objectives, but we are all trying.  I also enjoyed Carol's presentation after dinner.  The "scratch off" quiz approach was nothing I had ever seen before.  I look forward to hearing how we can do more effective assessment and better feedback without a lot more grading!

So far, a nice start to this Residency!  Back to work on my learning objectives...


Here we are:

Learning Objectives Assignment 

Biology Scholars Assessment Residency 

June, 2012 


Course:  Biology 350, Microbiology (Microbial Diversity). 

Students:  Mostly seniors, no background in microbiology 

Learning Objectives for a portion of my course:  A focus on the concept of “sociomicrobiology.” 


Background:  for my Microbiology course, there are five overarching concepts that I return to repeatedly in my class---as a framework through which to see recent developments in the field, analysis of papers, lab work, etc.  Here are the Five Principles: 


  •  Primacy of microbes in terms of numbers, prevalence, and metabolic prowess. 
  •  Evolution (in terms of the central “three domains” model, horizontal gene transfer, antibiotic resistance, and the study of evolutionary processes). 
  •  Sociomicrobiology (biofilms, quorum sensing, and cell-cell communication in general). 
  • Cellular microbiology as a way to better understand how eukaryotic cells function (i.e., understanding endosomal processing via bacterial pathogens interfering with lysosomal fusion). 
  • Cell structure visualization, via new technologies such as nano-SIMS or cryoelectron tomography that allow us to visualize microbial compartments and the equivalent of organelles. 


Originally, I focused on "sociomicrobiology," and had a number of learning objectives.  After consultation with Carol, she suggested that I focus down and “deconstruct” or “unpack” one aspect of my original learning objectives.  So…


My learning objective focus has narrowed down to a student presentation of a peer reviewed paper that “fits” into my “five overarching concepts” in microbiology presented in class.  Rather than my assigning a paper and topic to each group, I would like each student team to consult with each other and with me on a topic and paper. Each student team will present to their lab section, both as a PowerPoint and a two page summary. Let me break it down thusly with “mini-learning objectives” related to this task:    


  • 1.    Each student team will work together (and in consultation with the instructor) to choose a current peer-reviewed journal article via Google Scholar or PubMed that “fits” into the “five overarching concepts” in microbiology presented in lecture (and seen above). 
  • 2.   Each student team will focus on detailing two specific figures in the chosen/approved paper for analysis and presentation, as well as overall conclusions and context to the field and the class. 
  • 3.   Each team will present a 20 – 30 minute PowerPoint presentation on that paper, including the following elements:  introduction, materials and methods, focus on the two figures, summary (two or three “take home” lessons), “unanswered questions,” and context of the paper to the larger field. 
  • 4.   Each team will write a two page outline that applies to their presentation (to be handed out to their lab section at the same time as their presentation). 
  • 5.   Each team will write two possible test questions relating to their presentation (one relating to the figure(s) presented), along with a clear and unambiguous answer key. 
  • 6.   Other members of the laboratory section will evaluate the team presentation with regard to “clearest” and “muddiest” points, along with a rating 1-5. 
  • 7.   (out of order?) The members of the lab section will receive the chosen paper a week ahead of time to read and consider prior to the presentation.


I would add that I "model" what I would like to see in the second lab session:  I present a paper and summary and sample questions, so that the students see what is expected.