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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 WJ1985Kinetics of microbial growth on pentachlorophenolAppl Environ Microbiol494653
2. Rutten N, van Joolingen WR, van der Veen JT2012The learning effects of computer simulations in science educationComput Educ5813615310.1016/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 D1999OWL: An integrated web-based learning environment106112Proceedings of international conference on mathematics/science education and technology 1999Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education
4. Wieman C, Perkins K2005Transforming physics educationPhys Today58364110.1063/1.2155756 http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.2155756
5. Kober N2015Reaching students: what research says about effective instruction in undergraduate science and engineeringThe National Academies PressWashington, DC
6. Greeno JG, Collins AM, Resnick L1996Cognition and learning1546 Berliner B, Calfee RHandbook of educational psychologyMacmillan Library Reference USANew York, NY
7. Bransford JD, Brown AL, Cocking RR2000How people learnThe National Academies PressWashington, DC
8. Cooper S, Pérez LC, Rainey D2010K–12 computational learningCommun ACM53272910.1145/1839676.1839686 http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1839676.1839686
9. Wilensky U, Resnick M1999Thinking in levels: a dynamic systems approach to making sense of the worldJ Sci Educ Technol831910.1023/A:1009421303064 http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1009421303064

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2018-05-25
2018-12-11

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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