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Using ESS Microbial Growth Modeling Program to Improve Student Comprehension of Microbial Growth and Its Underlying Mathematics

    Authors: David E. Hogan1, Matt J. Harmon2, Kourtney A. Brown-Hogan3, Raina M. Maier1,*
    VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, College Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721; 2: Communications and Cyber Technologies, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721; 3: Sonoran Science Academy-Tucson, Tucson, AZ 85741
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 26 September 2017 Accepted 20 March 2018 Published 25 May 2018
    • ©2018 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721. Phone: 520-621-7234. Fax: 520-626-6782. E-mail: [email protected].
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2018 vol. 19 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1489
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    Abstract:

    The concept of bacterial growth and substrate utilization is foundational in the field of microbiology, yet the teaching of this concept is often limited to a graph displaying a single ideal growth curve. As a result, the underlying mathematics are often ignored, and when they are introduced, the equations are generally splashed across the screen with little expectation for student retention or comprehension. We have designed a web-based, interactive learning program called Environmental Science Studios (ESStudios: http://esstudios.arizona.edu/) to model microbial growth to promote active, hands-on, problem-solving that fosters a deep understanding of the mathematics of growth phenomena. The ESStudios Microbial Growth and Dynamics Modeling Program was used as a supplement to traditional lecture in an environmental microbiology course. Using the program, students were able to easily conduct a large number of virtual experiments, make direct on-screen comparisons across experiments, and develop a strong understanding of the effect of growth parameters on microbial growth curves. Student feedback on the activity was positive, and during the activity, we noted they asked questions indicative of higher level understanding. This activity demonstrates ESStudio’s potential to shift the pedagogy from teaching microbial growth using generalizations and dry oration to teaching the concept with visuals, case-studies, and interactions that allow direct relation of the underlying mathematics with the physical manifestations of microbial growth.

References & Citations

1. Klecka GM, Maier WJ 1985 Kinetics of microbial growth on pentachlorophenol Appl Environ Microbiol 49 46 53
2. Rutten N, van Joolingen WR, van der Veen JT 2012 The learning effects of computer simulations in science education Comput Educ 58 136 153 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.07.017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.07.017
3. Woolf B, Day R, Botch B, Vining W, Hart D 1999 OWL: An integrated web-based learning environment 106 112 Proceedings of international conference on mathematics/science education and technology 1999 Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education
4. Wieman C, Perkins K 2005 Transforming physics education Phys Today 58 36 41 10.1063/1.2155756 http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.2155756
5. Kober N 2015 Reaching students: what research says about effective instruction in undergraduate science and engineering The National Academies Press Washington, DC
6. Greeno JG, Collins AM, Resnick L 1996 Cognition and learning 15 46 Berliner B, Calfee R Handbook of educational psychology Macmillan Library Reference USA New York, NY
7. Bransford JD, Brown AL, Cocking RR 2000 How people learn The National Academies Press Washington, DC
8. Cooper S, Pérez LC, Rainey D 2010 K–12 computational learning Commun ACM 53 27 29 10.1145/1839676.1839686 http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1839676.1839686
9. Wilensky U, Resnick M 1999 Thinking in levels: a dynamic systems approach to making sense of the world J Sci Educ Technol 8 3 19 10.1023/A:1009421303064 http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1009421303064

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2018-05-25
2019-03-20

Abstract:

The concept of bacterial growth and substrate utilization is foundational in the field of microbiology, yet the teaching of this concept is often limited to a graph displaying a single ideal growth curve. As a result, the underlying mathematics are often ignored, and when they are introduced, the equations are generally splashed across the screen with little expectation for student retention or comprehension. We have designed a web-based, interactive learning program called Environmental Science Studios (ESStudios: http://esstudios.arizona.edu/) to model microbial growth to promote active, hands-on, problem-solving that fosters a deep understanding of the mathematics of growth phenomena. The ESStudios Microbial Growth and Dynamics Modeling Program was used as a supplement to traditional lecture in an environmental microbiology course. Using the program, students were able to easily conduct a large number of virtual experiments, make direct on-screen comparisons across experiments, and develop a strong understanding of the effect of growth parameters on microbial growth curves. Student feedback on the activity was positive, and during the activity, we noted they asked questions indicative of higher level understanding. This activity demonstrates ESStudio’s potential to shift the pedagogy from teaching microbial growth using generalizations and dry oration to teaching the concept with visuals, case-studies, and interactions that allow direct relation of the underlying mathematics with the physical manifestations of microbial growth.

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FIGURE 1

A typical growth curve used to depict the phases of microbial growth in traditional pedagogy.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2018 vol. 19 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1489
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