Inquiry-Based Learning: Inflammation as a Model to Teach Molecular Techniques for Assessing Gene Expression †
This laboratory module simulates the process used by working scientists to ask and answer a question of biological interest. Instructors facilitate acquisition of knowledge using a comprehensive, inquiry-based approach in which students learn theory, hypothesis development, experimental design, and data interpretation and presentation. Using inflammation in macrophages as a model system, students perform a series of molecular biology techniques to address the biological question: “Does stimulus ‘X’ induce inflammation?” To ask this question, macrophage cells are treated with putative inflammatory mediators and then assayed for evidence of inflammatory response. Students become familiar with their assigned mediator and the relationship between their mediator and inflammation by conducting literature searches, then using this information to generate hypotheses which address the effect of their mediator on induction of inflammation. The cellular and molecular approaches used to test their hypotheses include transfection and luciferase reporter assay, immunoblot, fluorescence microscopy, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and quantitative PCR. Quantitative and qualitative reasoning skills are developed through data analysis and demonstrated by successful completion of post-lab worksheets and the generation and oral presentation of a scientific poster. Learning objective assessment relies on four instruments: pre-lab quizzes, post-lab worksheets, poster presentation, and posttest. Within three cohorts (n = 85) more than 95% of our students successfully achieved the learning objectives.
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