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Team-based learning and how it can be used to enliven microbial education. Michael J. McInerney and L. Dee Fink University of Oklahoma. Active learning. Doing. Self. Receiving information and ideas. Observing. Others. Active learning model. Passive Learning. Reflective dialogue

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team based learning and how it can be used to enliven microbial education

Team-based learning and how it can be used to enliven microbial education.

Michael J. McInerney


L. Dee Fink

University of Oklahoma.


Active learning





and ideas.



Active learning model



Reflective dialogue




Educative assessment


(by learners)

Audit-ive assessment









Educative assessment model.

use of small groups
Use of small groups
  • Cooperative learning:
    • Groups as specific activity inserted into existing class; some type of project
    • 4 members per group; assigned roles, paper or talk.
  • Problem-based learning:
    • Problem comes first; requires restructuring of course
    • Mentors; multiple lengthy projects, either as papers or talks
  • Team-based learning:
    • Acquire needed information first then engage in learning tasks, make a decision!
    • 5-7 per group, no roles, work during class time, frequent and prompt feedback.
keys to team based learning
Keys to team-based learning
  • Groups must be properly formed and managed
    • Instructor forms groups; by experience not grade
  • Students must be accountable for their individual and group work
    • Individual: Readiness assurance process
    • Group: Peer assessment
  • Assignments must promote both learning and team development:
    • promote discussion, give and take.
  • Students must get timely and prompt feedback
  • Reward for success: somehow it must matter that team performs well
making good team assignments
Making good team assignments
  • Which would be best for group activity?
    • A. Make a list: list mistakes in the writer’s use of active and passive voice
    • B. Make a choice: in passage, identify sentences that are active or passive voice
    • C. Make a specific choice: in passage, identify the sentence where passive voice is used most appropriately
    • Use row 5 to answer this question.
evolution of quiz question
Evolution of quiz question
  • Simple choice deduced from facts:
    • Have 97% carbon recovery but O/R ratio is 1.5. Which compound is missing?
    • Ethanol, CO2, H2, or lactate?
  • Make decision:
    • Have 130% carbon recovery and O/R ratio of 0.7. Cost of radioactive substrate is $5,000.
    • Can you use washed cell suspensions to obtain a better fermentation balance?
    • Or could ask which of several approaches would be best to obtain a fermentation balance.
essentials for implementing group assignments the 3 s s

Impact on










Essentials for implementing group assignments: The 3 S’s

Same problem:

individuals/groups work on same project or question

Specific choice:

require students/groups to use concepts to make a decision.

Simultaneous reporting:

report answers/choices simultaneously.

microbial physiology situational analysis
Microbial physiology: situational analysis
  • Course content:
    • Mechanisms of energy conservation
    • carbon-carbon bond cleavage,
    • role of vitamins/cofactors
    • ecological applications
  • Required for microbiology majors; 50 to 80 students, mostly pre-medicine.
  • Problems:
    • Lack of relevancy to students’ careers
    • Poor retention of information and inability to apply information to new contexts.
changes made
Changes made
  • 2000: introduced weekly quizzes
    • 2 to 3 multiple choice questions taken individually
    • Form groups and take same quiz.
    • Simultaneously report by raising card
  • 2001 and 2002: introduced team projects as well.
    • Mid semester project: pathway development
    • End-of-semester project: electron transport and bioenergetics.
example of quiz questions
Example of Quiz questions.
  • Ask students to decide which of five chemicals whose structures and octane ratings are given should be used in gasoline.
  • Ask students which of five enzymes was missing to explain growth of an E. coli mutant on three different substrates.
  • Ask students whether to fund a proposal on use of hydrogenase mutants to make 1,3-propanediol.

Students had

to decide

whether deletion

of hydrogenase

would shift electron

flow to propandiol

sequence of team projects
Sequence of team projects
  • Give out data about 2- 3 weeks ahead of time
  • Assign 3 to 4 journal papers to read
  • On Monday of project week, each student turns in 1-page write up. Provide class time to work in groups.
  • On Friday, teams posters reviewed.
    • No identifying name or number
    • Each team reviews other teams posters
    • Assessment: post green, yellow, or red stickies notes
    • Discuss/defend/explain
    • Instructor summarizes.
mid semester project trans aconitate metabolism
Mid-semester project: trans-aconitate metabolism
  • Equation:
    • Trans-aconitate -> 1.8 acetate + 0.1 butyrate + 2CO2 + 0.9 H2
  • Molar growth yield: ~8 g/mole
  • Metabolism of position-labeled compounds
    • [5-14C]-glutamate: not found in acetate or butyrate.
    • [5-14C]-trans-aconitate: in carboxyl of acetate at one-half the specific activity.
  • Specific activities of 7 enzymes with trans-aconitate and glutamate as substrates
  • Concentrations of 6 intermediates during growth with the two substrates.
did high level learning occur
Did high level learning occur?
  • All teams correctly deduced that a modified or new pathway was needed.
  • 10 of 12 teams generated pathways fully consistent with stoichiometry, growth yields, labeling patterns, enzyme and intermediate data
  • Prochirality: had to incorporation this property of citrate to explain the data.
end of semester project desulfovibrio bioenergetics
End of semester project: Desulfovibrio bioenergetics.
  • Determine whether recent information on mutants requires a change in the model.
  • Mutants:
    • Cytochrome c3 deficient (Rapp-Giles et al., 2000)
    • Fe-only hydrogenase deficient (Pohorelic et al., 2002)
  • Modifications must explain mutant phenotypes and be consistent with molar growth yields (Magee et al., 1978)
    • Most had multiply branched chains or hmc complex that interacts with different carriers.






student performance on final with and without team projects
Student performance on final with and without team projects

Significantly higher after team projects

final examination scores with and without team projects
Final examination scores with and without team projects

Less low grades (<70)

and more good grades

(70’s and 80’s) with

team projects.

% in the 90’s not

significantly different.

why team learning helps
Why team-learning helps?
  • Metacongitive instruction:
    • Interactions may have allowed students to learn how others learn, and thus develop a better sense of how they learn.
    • Critical for the durability of concepts and transfer of concepts to new contexts (Georghiades, 2000, Educ. Res.; Vosniadou et al., 2001, Learning Instruction).
  • Learning Styles:
    • Sensor-feelers (Cognitive Profile Model)
    • Intuitive thinkers: don’t memorize, must understand concepts
    • These are the students with the traits best suited for research.
students attitudes before and after team learning introduced
Students’ attitudes before and after team-learning introduced

Students’ attitudes

about the


ability to

encourage critical

thinking markedly


team based learning and a graduate industrial microbiology
Team-based learning and a graduate industrial microbiology
  • Have students form teams to develop company to make a specific product
  • Instructor picks overall product:
    • Commodity ethanol production
    • Biosurfactant production.
  • Teams choose:
    • Market/application for process
    • Strain
    • Medium
    • Fermentation process
    • Molecular/genetic improvement approach
team base learning in introductory microbiology
Team-base learning in introductory microbiology
  • Non-majors class: mainly allied health students.
  • Have group activity after each major section of the course:
    • Anatomy, metabolism, growth, molecular biology, and medical microbiology.
  • Culminating project to link concepts together:
    • Role of microorganisms atherosclerosis.
    • Modes of defense against bioterrorism attack.
  • Teams accomplish significant learning tasks.
  • Improved understanding and retention of foundational material and improved problem-solving skills.
  • Students’ attitudes and classroom dynamics improved.
  • Mechanism to engage students in evolving process of scientific thought and inquiry.
  • Learning tool for teaching microbial diversity.
team question
Team question
  • One word reports (yes/no, up/down) are the very best format to report group results.
  • Use row 2 to answer this question.
  • A. Yes
  • B. No?