Doodle poll now up for first microbiology hangout!

If you’re interested in chatting (online) about introductory microbiology concepts (including common misconceptions, troublesome knowledge, threshold concepts), please participate in the Doodle poll to decide on a day/time next week (July 31, Aug. 1 or Aug. 2):

Oh, and if anyone would like to help me test-drive the Google+ Hangout system earlier in the week, please let me know! 🙂

Microbiology misconceptions, troublesome knowledge & threshold concepts

As mentioned in the previous post, I’m hoping to start some online conversations with other microbiology educators soon. As I work on materials for my fall intro micro courses, I’d really appreciate the chance to talk about threshold concepts and misconceptions in microbiology. Here I’ve included some information about what these are, and what I’ve pulled together so far about introductory microbiology concepts.

Threshold with Giant Microbes
A threshold, if not a threshold concept.

I’ve been seeing more published evidence and increasing attention to the need for addressing student prior knowledge/misconceptions for effective learning, and the idea that there are key threshold concepts that must be mastered in order to proceed past the “threshold” to subsequent concepts in a discipline.  Threshold concepts have a number of characteristics, including that such concepts are considered troublesome, transformative, irreversible, integrative, and bounded. (Check out the references below, especially those from Meyer and Land, if you’d like to know more about threshold concepts.)

Some work has been done in a number of domains to identify threshold concepts and common misconceptions (TC/MC henceforth). (An interesting workshop “Troublesome concepts ACROSS the sciences” was offered earlier in the month at the Western Conference on Science Education by researchers at Dalhousie: ) A number of people are working to identify TC/MC in biology – see Modell et al 2005, Taylor 2006, Ross et al. 2010, Smith 2012 for just a few examples. However, there is not a lot available (at least, that I have found) in microbiology, with the exception of interesting work by Marbach-Ad et al on host-pathogen interactions (e.g., see 2009 paper and others from this group).

The ASM has published a curriculum guidelines for introductory microbiology ( ; see Merkel 2012) which I found incredibly helpful in identifying what students should be learning. Identification of TC/MC could help us (as instructors) develop effective learning activities so that we can better help students progress through the curriculum.

So far, I’ve been collecting some TC/MC that I think are worth focusing on in course development. I’d really appreciate the input of other microbiology educators to expand/clarify this list … and, ultimately, share ideas of how to best address these items in our classes.  Below are my notes, such as they are (i.e., probably with many gaps/omissions).

Continue reading “Microbiology misconceptions, troublesome knowledge & threshold concepts”

Google Hangouts for Microbiology educators – soon!

I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to other science/biology educators (as I recently was reminded, at WCSE2013 and the annual oCUBE UnConference). At the moment, I’m working on revamping my microbiology courses for next year, developing online versions of them, along with online resources. I’d like to do more with threshold concepts and addressing common microbiology misconceptions in my teaching, and I am sure that I’m not alone.

Twitter has allowed some interesting/useful conversations on microbiology education, but I’m thinking I’d like to chat with microbio educators beyond 140 character chunks. I don’t know how much interest there will be, but I plan to set up some Google Hangouts (or some other collaborative communication system) where we can discuss some of the educational issues/tips/questions that we might share.  I would also like to find ways of sharing some of what we come up with – being as open as possible.

I’ve mentioned this Twitter, and will likely email some folks who come to mind. If you’re interested in this, please drop me a line!