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A Large-Class Undergraduate Microbiology Laboratory Activity on Microbial Diversity and Antimicrobial Resistance

    Authors: Kata Farkas1,2,*, James E. McDonald1
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    Affiliations: 1: School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, UK; 2: School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. July 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2043
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    Abstract:

    The investigation of microbial diversity and adaptation is essential to comprehend biological processes. Yet, teaching basic microbiology techniques to large groups of students in limited time is challenging, as most approaches are time-consuming or require special equipment. In this activity, students performed three laboratory exercises in three hours involving the analysis of inoculated agar plates they prepared by swabbing samples from an environment of their choice, the examination of antimicrobial effects on growth, and the assessment of microbial enzymatic activity in soil. The activity was field tested in two classes (70 and 76 students, respectively) of first-year undergraduate biology and zoology students at the Bangor University (UK) using pre- and post-tests ( = 84). Based on the answers, learning gain scores (G) were calculated for each learning objective (LO). For all LOs, the mean post-test scores were higher than the mean pre-test scores. The activity significantly improved students’ understanding of microbial diversity (G = 0.36, = 0.010) and microbial detection and quantification (G = 0.18 to 0.773, p ≤ 0.004). The lack of significant differences in scores for questions targeting microbial growth (G = 0.31, = 0.292) and antimicrobial resistance (G = 0.38, = 0.052) suggested some existing knowledge amongst undergraduates. However, the extent of knowledge showed great variation. The results may suggest that the activity is suitable to introduce microbiology-related laboratory work to students with limited laboratory skills and knowledge. Furthermore, the pre- and post-test approach used here is suitable for both course evaluation and monitoring attainment and can be used for program validation and quality control.

References & Citations

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5. Allen ME, Gyure RA 2013 An undergraduate laboratory activity demonstrating bacteriophage specificity J Microbiol Biol Educ 14 84 92 10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.534 23858357 3706169 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.534
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8. Ankri S, Mirelman D 1999 Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic Microbes Infect 1 125 129 10.1016/S1286-4579(99)80003-3 10594976 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1286-4579(99)80003-3
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10. Nabavi SF, Di Lorenzo A, Izadi M, Sobarzo-Sánchez E, Daglia M, Nabavi SM 2015 Antibacterial effects of cinnamon: from farm to food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries Nutrients 7 7729 7748 10.3390/nu7095359 26378575 4586554 http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu7095359
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15. Springer L, Stanne ME, Donovan SS 1999 Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: a meta-analysis Rev Educ Res 69 21 51 10.3102/00346543069001021 http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00346543069001021
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2020-07-31
2020-08-06

Abstract:

The investigation of microbial diversity and adaptation is essential to comprehend biological processes. Yet, teaching basic microbiology techniques to large groups of students in limited time is challenging, as most approaches are time-consuming or require special equipment. In this activity, students performed three laboratory exercises in three hours involving the analysis of inoculated agar plates they prepared by swabbing samples from an environment of their choice, the examination of antimicrobial effects on growth, and the assessment of microbial enzymatic activity in soil. The activity was field tested in two classes (70 and 76 students, respectively) of first-year undergraduate biology and zoology students at the Bangor University (UK) using pre- and post-tests ( = 84). Based on the answers, learning gain scores (G) were calculated for each learning objective (LO). For all LOs, the mean post-test scores were higher than the mean pre-test scores. The activity significantly improved students’ understanding of microbial diversity (G = 0.36, = 0.010) and microbial detection and quantification (G = 0.18 to 0.773, p ≤ 0.004). The lack of significant differences in scores for questions targeting microbial growth (G = 0.31, = 0.292) and antimicrobial resistance (G = 0.38, = 0.052) suggested some existing knowledge amongst undergraduates. However, the extent of knowledge showed great variation. The results may suggest that the activity is suitable to introduce microbiology-related laboratory work to students with limited laboratory skills and knowledge. Furthermore, the pre- and post-test approach used here is suitable for both course evaluation and monitoring attainment and can be used for program validation and quality control.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Examples of plates used in Exercise 1.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. July 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2043
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FIGURE 2

Examples of the effects of antimicrobials.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. July 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2043
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FIGURE 3

Set-up for testing microbial catalase activity in soil (Exercise 3). Tube 1: soil mixed with hydrogen peroxide solution. Tube 2: 30–40 mL water.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. July 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2043
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FIGURE 4

Rubric scores for the four learning outcomes. Mean ( = 84) student scores on a rubric ( Appendix 5 ) were used to measure knowledge of the four LOs before and after the class (i.e., pre- and post-test, shown as black and white bars, respectively). *, unanswered questions were excluded ([LO4*]=46); #, differences between pre- and post-test mean scores are significant ( ≤ 0.01).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. July 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2043
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