Biology: Understanding Antibiotic Resistance

Title: A Case Study-Based Approach to Scientific Literacy: Application of Science Concepts and Lab Techniques to Understanding Antibiotic Resistance
Discipline(s) or Field(s):
ors: Elaine O. Hardwick, Kim L. Mogen, John Wheeler, University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Submission Date:
May 2009

 The theme of the lesson study was the concept- and lab-based investigation of antibiotic resistance.

Learning goals: Students will be able to:

  1. explain the basic scientific concepts related to the study of antibiotic resistance.
  2. describe the methods used to investigate bacterial antibiotic resistance.
  3. relate their overall knowledge of antibiotic resistance based on application of concept- and data-based knowledge and experience.

Instructional design:  The problem-based lesson study employed a case study framework where students role-played as public health interns investigating a community outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacterial species E.coli. As described in the Learning goals, the three major aspects of the lesson study, conceptual knowledge, collection and application of data-based knowledge, and communication of overall knowledge, culminated in an oral presentation of each group’s project. In addition to meeting campus general education requirements, the collaborative group format of the project addresses one of our departmental program goals (Appendix 3) and was primarily assessed in a narrative fashion (Appendix 4) by individual students at the end of the project.

Our approach was straightforward in that both lecture and lab sessions introduced, discussed, and reviewed biological concepts related to antibiotic resistance and application of the scientific method process to “solve and explain” the issues set forth in the case study. The focus of the lab was to approximate standard microbiological methods used by public health professionals to test antibiotic resistance of E. coli. Lastly, students were evaluated on their overall knowledge via an oral PowerPoint presentation.

Major findings about student learning: The majority of students were able to clearly communicate their understanding of antibiotic resistance using the case-study framework. Having the case-study allowed students to research similar published studies to formulate hypotheses, compare data, and discuss outcomes of their “internship”. Application of standard methods used to collect data about antibiotic resistance of E. coli was completed in collaborative groups where students (in both lesson study sessions) were successful in explaining and applying their data to the case-study scenario. Students were able to utilize the strengths of group members to compile their project data and researched background information to present their projects in a PowerPoint format in language understandable to peers and instructors. Upon the second iteration of the lesson, instructors were able to implement the student suggestions (from the initial lesson) to improve student comprehension of concepts and facilitate collaborative groups via additional in-class time set aside specifically for the project. Student self-assessment of the project through a narrative format revealed positive changes in student comprehension with respect to previous misconceptions regarding, for example, differences between bacteria and viruses and human resistance to antibiotics. Students were clearly able to articulate basic information about antibiotics, E.coli, and the impact of these topics on their personal lives.

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