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Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 1

Vertical Transmission March 2010

Welcome to our first online edition of Microbiology Australia. Over the next few editions we hope to introduce some new features to the magazine that will take advantage of the electronic format. You will see some examples in this version along with the traditional themed stories that have been so successful in the past. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped make this transition of the magazine to electronic format, including Chris Burke and Ian Macreadie, along with the rest of the MA Editorial Board and the staff ...

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The challenges of teaching microbiology

By its nature, education looks to the future – in that the benefits are in the future with an educated populace. However, education functions in the present and faces problems that must be resolved now, in order to achieve the future benefit. The true measure of education, then, is the success of student learning, which is served by good teaching. Altering our perspective as teachers to seeing the goal as student learning outcomes rather than being ‘good teachers’ opens up many different challenges. Understanding too that if we have taught well...

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Biology concept assessment tools: design and use

Many recent publications have highlighted the need for, and value of, concept assessments (also called inventories) in undergraduate biology education. Current interest in such assessments is primarily due to the emergence of a community of science education researchers in biology, who both approach teaching from a scientific perspective and want to measure the potential successes of their teaching reforms. Well-designed, valid and reliable assessment tools that allow instructors to capture student learning of the main concepts of biology are b...

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Mentoring in microbiology: tips and traps for PhD supervisors

This article focuses on postgraduate supervision as a critically important part of university teaching in microbiology. It is written for the PhD supervisor and is intended to encourage reflection on their role as a mentor for the students under their care. Much of the material comes from the documentation supplied by a large number of scientists in Australia and beyond who proposed their mentor for the 2006 Nature Awards for Mentoring in Science. As one of the judges for the Australasian awards, the author had access to this material which he,...

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Peer review of teaching to promote learning outcomes

In 1990, American educator Ernest Boyer asked us to reconsider scholarship. In doing this he recognised not only the importance of teaching, but also that it was undervalued. Boyer concluded that for teaching to become valued it needed to be evaluated as rigorously as research is and suggested, among other things, that peer evaluation was an effective means of assessing quality – just as it is in research. Boyer noted that peer evaluation of teaching was not commonly practised in American higher education. The situation remains similar to this ...

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Rethinking the prerequisite paradigm

Academics who teach upper-level biology courses at tertiary education institutions typically establish prerequisites for their courses, with the anticipation that students will arrive at class prepared with a good understanding of basic concepts of chemistry and biology. Establishing prerequisites serves two purposes: it justifies the omission of ‘previously learned’ material from the curriculum and also permits the assumption that students are prepared to move to higher-level learning domains and tackle conceptually complex topics.

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Digital wet laboratories: blended learning to improve student learning

To create great learning environments we need to actively engage our learners. Microbiology laboratory work experience for students is a powerful motivator; students returning from placement back to university often buzz with stories and look forward to a future place in industry. Unfortunately, opportunities for working in industry are limited and thus the next best thing is to ensure that university laboratory practicals also actively engage students. Traditional laboratory practical classes can be supported by and better simulate the activit...

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Learning to teach – teaching to learn

Demonstrating in a practical class has shown a cohort of honours students that effectively communicating knowledge and instructions to students requires careful preparation, precise time management and a clear and inclusive manner and, whilst an enjoyable and rewarding experience, is not as easy a task as they had assumed from their experience as students in their undergraduate days. It has also shown that there are valuable opportunities for personal development for both teacher and learner in a practical class setting.

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Utilising the learning management system to enhance feedback for students

Internet-based learning management systems (LMS) allow academics to automate the provision of timely feedback to students. However, to fully exploit this LMS capability and to further encourage student involvement, teaching staff can add an element of summative assessment to the feedback process.

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Collaborative practice re-energises bioscience teaching in schools

This year marks the first decade of operations for the Gene Technology Access Centre (GTAC). The decade has seen a grassroots initiative by a small group of eminent research scientists and dedicated personnel from the University High School in Melbourne grow into a specialist education centre in cell and molecular biology that attracts over 6000 students and their teachers each year. GTAC has not only refocused student and teacher attention on the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary biology, but has also highlighted how a ‘centre model for...

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Practicum and work experience in microbiology and related disciplines

Gaining hands-on experience throughout an under graduate degree is regarded as a competitive advantage by science students. At the Gippsland campus of Monash University, the Industry Placement Program (IPP) allows students to gain industry experience throughout their entire course. Science students enrolled in the IPP undertake a practicum learning experience, equivalent to a 12-point unit, whose emphasis is on identifying and building transferable skills while gaining technical competency. The combination of academic studies, relevant paid wor...

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Catalysing interdisciplinary and integrative thinking through the scholarship of teaching and learning

Science by its very nature is interdisciplinary and scientific research relies on the collaborative skills and expertise of researchers across the disciplines. Yet, science as taught in the university classroom is usually compartmentalised into separate subjects. Most undergraduate students are not exposed to the excitement and challenge of connecting the concepts, skills and processes learnt within these distinct disciplines until they enter the laboratory as an honours student. Indeed, opportunities for problem-solving, novel application of c...

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“At the end of my course, students should be able to …”: The benefits of creating and using effective learning goals

At the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU), several science departments – including Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) – are working to improve undergraduate science education as part of the Science Education Initiative (SEI). The SEI is a 5-year project designed to support faculty-led, departmental-wide improvements in students’ learning of and engagement in science. In each of the five funded departments, faculty are taking a scholarly approach to transforming their courses and introducing proven teaching practices. An i...

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Significance of laboratory experience in undergraduate microbiology

The 2008 Review of Australian Higher Education highlighted current financial constraints on higher education in Australia that impact negatively on the quality of student experience and their learning outcomes. Practical laboratory experience is costly in providing venues, staffing, materials and equipment. However, the practical nature of microbiology necessitates acquisition of significant knowledge and experience of laboratory skills to effectively support the profession. This article provides evidence that inclusion of practical classes in...

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Engaging students in clinical Bacteriology: a fresh look

Frequently there is a disconnectedness, either perceived or actual, between theoretical principles and laboratory practice in science education and this holds true for clinical microbiology where traditionally knowledge is delivered in ‘chunks’ in a lecture format with the misguided belief that students have to know ‘everything about everything’. This preoccupation with content delivery often leaves no time for active class discussion or reflection. Moreover, laboratory classes are treated as add-ons to the process, rather than an integrated pa...

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Finding the right balance in the delivery of undergraduate biology programs: a personal perspective

Universities, and indeed the wider community, are facing a huge challenge with what has been referred to as the ‘flight from science’ of recent generations of students. This trend began some 2 decades ago and has become an acute problem in recent years. It could be argued that it has come at a time when there has never been a greater need by society for graduates with the scientific expertise to address the big issues now confronting us. The potential impact of global warming, the continuing emergence of new disease threats, the advent of cutti...

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ASM Affairs, May 2010

Bridging Bass Strait: report on Bi-State 2009 Hobart; Student Awards

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