Possible topics for upcoming #microhangouts

Microhangout Topics - Wordle

After returning from a week away, and (almost) catching up on emails, I wanted to just share a few of the things that came up in our first #microhangout. There are a number of topics that (at least some) microbiology educators appear to be interested in discussing, including: best practises for teaching certain microbiology topics/concepts/techniques; how to foster integration of concepts (within microbiology, but also across other areas);  teaching evolution when students come from a variety of educational backgrounds/exposure to biology; aspects surrounding lecture capture (including privacy); effective use of class time; student attendance in classes (& posting of lecture slides in advance); use of clickers (personal or student response systems); case studies (e.g., see the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science website);  the idea of a microbiology education (virtual) journal club; and sharing educational resources. When I get a bit more organized, I’ll see about setting up a poll for choosing a topic for the next #microhangout to be held in the near future. (Let me know if there are other topics that might be of interest!)

I would also appreciate a chance to chat with some microbiology undergrads and grad students about microbiology (concepts, learning), from the undergrad/grad student point of view. Again, I need to sort through some things, but if you are (or know) an undergraduate or graduate student in microbiology who might be interested in this type of discussion, I’d love to hear from you!

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: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/wcse/WCSEThirteen/july09/14 ) 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 (http://www.asm.org/index.php/guidelines/curriculum-guidelines ; 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).

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