ASM events
This conference is managed by the American Society for Microbiology
Table of contents
  1. 1. Reading list
Reading list

The story described by Randy Bass particularly resonates with me, as I have gone through a similar process of identifying teaching problems; using various methods to supposedly fix them; having my eyes opened about the nature of learning and then fundamentally altering my approach to teaching.Concomitantly, I deliberately chose to spend a lot of time and effort in developing my understanding of teaching and learning, and how both can be evaluated in terms of the effectiveness of the learning that occurs. So, although the first problems that I recognised were the lack of scientific and critical thinking in students, together with their poor retention of the fundamentals of microbiology, I rapidly became aware of the urgency of developing my abilities of evaluating my teaching. From this, I now think that the big problem is what is the question – ie what am I trying to achieve with each component of the teaching and learning nexus?

Craig Nelson wrote about the biases that we and our students bring to class. In a slightly different context I found one of the most useful aspects of my undertaking formal learning in pedagogy is that it placed me front and centre as student, with all the usual ignorance and lack of confidence that students have. So now I starting to consider my teaching from the perspective of the student and what they are likely to bring to the class, in order to acknowledge the real starting point and build upon it. Teaching and learning can be seen as a complement to the research process in which an aim is defined, research (learning) carried out, peer evaluated (e.g. the exam) and then disseminated (hopefully, via the students’ future activities). Reading the JMBE guidelines was interesting, because to me it identified good research and publication in education as being the same as good research and publication in my discipline of science – and probably any other discipline as well. Viewing it like this, helps me overcome the block that I currently have allowed to develop about publishing in education, when I have a reasonable publication record in science. However, the real plus for me here was to read the example paper that is on the website – this provided clear examples to illustrate all the points. Following on from this, of Spencer Benson’s 12 points, I would identify the need to disseminate / publish as particularly relevant to me. And I would hope that my efforts do stimulate some intellectual exchange, for I think the biggest problem facing teachers is the vacuum in which we work.

Although I agree with Spencer’s 12 points, I am not sure that I would place such emphasis on the importance of the actual discipline for education in that discipline. I tend to see science as a mining down to fundamentals, whereby one answer generates another question and often this question can only be answered by understanding a concept from another discipline. I would emphasise the links within and between disciplines for student learning. My concern, however, is that I think that I have a long way to go in developing a sound understanding of pedagogy, and its evaluation, in order to develop curricula and teaching activities that engender good learning. So where does that leave the students that I am currently teaching?

For me the prospect of a network of like-interested colleagues to discuss and critique teaching and learning practices and research into education is the most important outcome of the workshop. The network provides the opportunity for peer review, which I would find very helpful, particularly to achieve my aim of publishing my research into the effectiveness of enquiry-based learning in microbiology. I will present this at ASMCUE 2009 as a paper tentatively entitled: Is it microbiology, or should it be science? To achieve these, the most important component will be time on task. It will be vital for me to not allow other aspects of my job to distract me (all too easy to do) from interacting with colleagues and getting on with preparing a publication. So I am looking forward to meeting everyone and starting to establish good working relationships with all – surely the most fundamental and rewarding aspect of any research.

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