Article 2: Project-based learning for undergraduate students

Title: Increasing awareness about antibiotic use and resistance: a hands-on project for high school students

Author: Maria João Fonseca, Catarina L. Santos, Patrício Costa, Leonor Lencastre, Fernando Tavares

Journal: PLoS One

Publication date: September 12, 2012

Theme for Weeks 4 and 5: Project-based learning for undergraduate students

Antibiotic resistance has become such a hot topic in Biology and Healthcare, that there is an incredible amount of resources available to educate both the general public and specialized students. I chose this project, “Microbiology recipes: antibiotics a la carte”, because it includes a mix of interactive lectures and laboratory activities that covers all the bases in a practical, engaging way.

Let me get this out of the way: the authors intended this project to be carried out by high school students aged 15-17, but I believe that it will have similar benefits in undergraduate students aged 17-20. The main reason they decided to target this to high school students was to help them transition to more sophisticated conceptualizations of bacteria and antibiotics, which might be challenging due to their abstract nature. This level of instruction is ideal for a lower-level undergraduate Biology course.

The project began with an overview of the activities to be performed and basic laboratory safety training. Subsequent lectures provided the background for the wet lab activities, and introduced students to the use of bioinformatics for finding genes that code for antibiotic resistance. Students also analyzed scientific articles to learn about the format for reporting data within the scientific community. The wet labs consisted of acquainting students with basic techniques used for manipulating microorganisms (something I would probably cover at the beginning of my course), and then assaying antibiotic resistance using commercial and natural antibiotics.

The researchers assessed the effectiveness of their project through the use of surveys (pre- and post-project questionnaires), direct observation, and evaluation of artifacts produced by the students. They found that students improved their laboratory skills, refined their knowledge of antibiotic resistance and were eager to share their experience with relatives and friends.

The project facilitated and inspired student learning (NETS-T 1) because students were engaged in a real-world issue, and used digital resources to learn about the science behind antibiotic resistance. Because of the inclusion of bioinformatics tools, I would say it was a digital age learning experience (NETS-T 2). Students developed research and information fluency (NETS-S 3) as they had to evaluate scientific literature to learn about how to use and organize their experimental results .

As an educator, I have covered this topic before, but never in such an encompassing fashion. This article gives me great guidelines to follow when preparing my own antibiotic resistance module.

Fonseca M.J., Santos C.L., Costa P., Lencastre L., Tavares F. (2012). Increasing awareness about antibiotic use and resistance: A hands-on project for high school students. PLoS ONE, 7(9): e44699. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044699

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About Lily F.M.

Graduate student trying to learn as much as I can!

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