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Authentic Active Learning Activities Demonstrating the Use of Serial Dilutions and Plate Counts

    Authors: Jordon K. March1, Kyle C. Jensen1, Nathan T. Porter1, Donald P. Breakwell1,*
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 01 December 2011
    • Supplemental material available at http://jmbe.asm.org
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University, 799 WIDB, Provo, UT 84602. Phone: (801)422-2378. Fax: (801)422-0519. E-mail: don_breakwell@byu.edu.
    • Copyright © 2011 American Society for Microbiology
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2011 vol. 12 no. 2 152-156. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v12i2.316
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    Abstract:

    Serial dilution and plate counting is often taught in courses for both microbiology and allied health students. Lecture examples and examination questions addressing how the method is used can sometimes be contrived: artificial data sets may have little or no meaning other than to have students perform a calculation. Here we provide a set of activities employing data sets acquired from the primary literature. Our objective was to have the students think critically about a real scenario in which serial dilution and plate count was used. Each activity requires students to read a paragraph describing the study, predict the results, perform the appropriate calculations, and then evaluate the results in light of their predictions. To test the efficacy of these activities, a pretest quiz was given to approximately 100 students in an allied health/general microbiology course. After a lecture on how microbes are enumerated, students were given a different quiz. The class was then divided randomly into groups of three or four students and assigned one of the activities. A postactivity quiz was also administered. Approximately two weeks later, a serial dilution/plate count question was used on an examination and served as a final posttest. Standardized learning gains were calculated for the quiz administered after each learning activity. Even though learning gains were significantly higher after the lecture, there was also a significant improvement between the lecture and the activity. Using an exercise based on an authentic set of data significantly improved student learning gains, and is a useful practice for teaching microbiology.

Key Concept Ranking

Plate Count Method
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References & Citations

1. Anderson LW, Krathwohl DR2001A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: a revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives: complete editionLongmanNew York, NY1175422721390
2. Bloom BS1956Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook 1: the cognitive domainLongmanNew York, NY
3. Carlson A2001Authentic learning: what does it really mean?Innovative Teaching Showcase200102Center for Instructional Innovation & Assessment, Western Washington UniversityBellingham, WAAvailable from: pandora.cii.wwu.edu/showcase2001/authentic_learning.htmAccessed June 23, 2011
4. Smith CA, Powell SC, Wood EJ1995Problem-based learning and problem-solving skillsBiochemical Education23149152
5. Lombardi MM2007Authentic learning for the 21st century: an overviewELI Authentic Learning White Paper Series. EDUCAUSE Learning InitiativeAvailable from: http://www.educause.edu/ELI/AuthenticLearningforthe21stCen/156769
6. Lombardi MM2007Approaches that work: how authentic learning is transforming higher educationELI Authentic Learning White Paper Series. EDUCAUSE Learning InitiativeAvailable from: http://www.educause.edu/ELI/ApproachesThatWorkHowAuthentic/161821
7. Walker JD, Cotner SH, Baepler PM, Decker MD2008A delicate balance: integrating active learning into a large lecture courseCBE Life Sci. Educ.736136710.1187/cbe.08-02-0004190474232592041 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.08-02-0004
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v12i2.316
2011-12-01
2017-09-25

Abstract:

Serial dilution and plate counting is often taught in courses for both microbiology and allied health students. Lecture examples and examination questions addressing how the method is used can sometimes be contrived: artificial data sets may have little or no meaning other than to have students perform a calculation. Here we provide a set of activities employing data sets acquired from the primary literature. Our objective was to have the students think critically about a real scenario in which serial dilution and plate count was used. Each activity requires students to read a paragraph describing the study, predict the results, perform the appropriate calculations, and then evaluate the results in light of their predictions. To test the efficacy of these activities, a pretest quiz was given to approximately 100 students in an allied health/general microbiology course. After a lecture on how microbes are enumerated, students were given a different quiz. The class was then divided randomly into groups of three or four students and assigned one of the activities. A postactivity quiz was also administered. Approximately two weeks later, a serial dilution/plate count question was used on an examination and served as a final posttest. Standardized learning gains were calculated for the quiz administered after each learning activity. Even though learning gains were significantly higher after the lecture, there was also a significant improvement between the lecture and the activity. Using an exercise based on an authentic set of data significantly improved student learning gains, and is a useful practice for teaching microbiology.

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FIG. 1

The pretest used to determine student ability to determine plate counts given a small set of authentic data.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2011 vol. 12 no. 2 152-156. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v12i2.316
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Image of FIG. 2

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FIG. 2

Normalized learning gains for postlecture, postactivity, and exam. The postactivity and exam learning gains were significantly different from the postlecture assessment. However, the postactivity and exam learning gains were not significantly different.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2011 vol. 12 no. 2 152-156. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v12i2.316
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