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Microbial Murders Crime Scene Investigation: An Active Team-Based Learning Project that Enhances Student Enthusiasm and Comprehension of Clinical Microbial Pathogens

    Author: J. Jordan Steel1
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    Affiliations: 1: Colorado State University-Pueblo, Pueblo, CO 81001
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    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1298
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    Abstract:

    Microbial disease knowledge is a critical component of microbiology courses and is beneficial for many students’ future careers. Microbiology courses traditionally cover core concepts through lectures and labs, but specific instruction on microbial diseases varies greatly depending on the instructor and course. A common project involves students researching and presenting a disease to the class. This method alone is not very effective, and course evaluations have consistently indicated that students felt they lacked adequate disease knowledge; therefore, a more hands-on and interactive disease project was developed called Microbial Murders. For this team-based project, a group of students chooses a pathogen, researches the disease, creates a “mugshot” of the pathogen, and develops a corresponding “crime scene,” where a hypothetical patient has died from the microbe. Each group gives a presentation introducing the microbial pathogen, signs/symptoms, treatments, and overall characteristics. The students then visit each other’s crime scenes to match the pathogen with the correct crime scene by critically thinking through the clues. This project has shown remarkable success. Surveys indicate that 73% of students thought the project helped them understand the material and 84% said it was worth their time. Student participation, excitement, understanding, and application of microbial disease knowledge have increased and are evident through an increase in course evaluations and in student assessment scores. This project is easy to implement and can be used in a wide variety of biology, microbiology, or health classes for any level (middle school through college).

References & Citations

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2. Armbruster P, Patel M, Johnson E, Weiss M2009Active learning and student-centered pedagogy improve student attitudes and performance in introductory biologyCBE Life Sci Educ820321310.1187/cbe.09-03-0025197238152736024 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.09-03-0025
3. Freeman S, Eddy SL, McDonough M, Smith MK, Okoroafor N, Jordt H, Wenderoth MP2014Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematicsProc Natl Acad Sci USA1118410841510.1073/pnas.1319030111248217564060654 http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1319030111
4. Arwood L2004Teaching cell biology to nonscience majors through forensics, or how to design a killer courseCell Biol Educ313113810.1187/cbe.03-12-002315257341437644 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.03-12-0023
5. Serrano A, Liebner J, Hines JK2016Cannibalism, kuru, and mad cows: prion disease as a “choose-your-own-experiment” case study to simulate scientific inquiry in large lecturesPLOS Biol14e100235110.1371/journal.pbio.1002351 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002351
6. Wiertelak EP, Frenzel KE, Roesch LA2016Case studies and neuroscience education: tools for effective teachingJ Undergrad Neurosci Educ14E13E14273859284917350
7. Behling KC, Murphy MM, Mitchell-Williams J, Rogers-McQuade H, Lopez OJ2016Team-based learning in a pipeline course in medical microbiology for underrepresented student populations in medicine improves learning of microbiology conceptsJ Microbiol Biol Educ1737037910.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1083 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1083
8. Rezaee R, Moadeb N, Shokrpour N2016Team-based learning: a new approach toward improving educationActa Med Iran5467868227888597
9. Snyder JJ, Sloane JD, Dunk RDP, Wiles JR2016Peer-led team learning helps minority students succeedPLOS Biol14e100239810.1371/journal.pbio.1002398269598264784972 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002398
10. Marbach-Ad G, Rietschel CH, Saluja N, Carleton KL, Haag ES2016The use of group activities in introductory biology supports learning gains and uniquely benefits high-achieving studentsJ Microbiol Biol Educ1736036910.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1071 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1071
11. Chase C, Chin DB, Oppezzo M, Schwartz DL2009Teachable agents and the protégé effect: increasing the effort towards learningJ Sci Educ Technol18433435210.1007/s10956-009-9180-4 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10956-009-9180-4
12. Webb G2016Learning through teaching: a microbiology ser vice-learning experienceJ Microbiol Biol Educ17868910.1128/jmbe.v17i1.997270475984798824 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.997
13. Webb G2015The use of stuf fed microbes in an undergraduate microbiology course increases engagement and student learningJ Microbiol Biol Educ1628228510.1128/jmbe.v16i2.924 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v16i2.924
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2017-08-11
2017-09-19

Abstract:

Microbial disease knowledge is a critical component of microbiology courses and is beneficial for many students’ future careers. Microbiology courses traditionally cover core concepts through lectures and labs, but specific instruction on microbial diseases varies greatly depending on the instructor and course. A common project involves students researching and presenting a disease to the class. This method alone is not very effective, and course evaluations have consistently indicated that students felt they lacked adequate disease knowledge; therefore, a more hands-on and interactive disease project was developed called Microbial Murders. For this team-based project, a group of students chooses a pathogen, researches the disease, creates a “mugshot” of the pathogen, and develops a corresponding “crime scene,” where a hypothetical patient has died from the microbe. Each group gives a presentation introducing the microbial pathogen, signs/symptoms, treatments, and overall characteristics. The students then visit each other’s crime scenes to match the pathogen with the correct crime scene by critically thinking through the clues. This project has shown remarkable success. Surveys indicate that 73% of students thought the project helped them understand the material and 84% said it was worth their time. Student participation, excitement, understanding, and application of microbial disease knowledge have increased and are evident through an increase in course evaluations and in student assessment scores. This project is easy to implement and can be used in a wide variety of biology, microbiology, or health classes for any level (middle school through college).

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Examples of microbial mugshots and crime scenes.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1298
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FIGURE 2

End-of-semester survey responses.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1298
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FIGURE 3

Scores on crime scene preparation and solving the crime based on the rubric.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1298
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FIGURE 4

Assessment of improved learning with Microbial Murders: A Crime Scene Investigation.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1298
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FIGURE 5

Unit and final exam score comparison based on participation in Microbial Murders: A Crime Scene Investigation.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1298
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