Blog Articles

7 Creative Ways to Teach Microbiology without Lecturing

Akanksha Saxena
Microbiology
Teaching with Labster

Most students find the microbial world very alluring and the subject of microbiology comes naturally to them. The facts and figures of this subject look relatable and directly applicable in the real world. But the obvious fear sprouts when lecturing is the main model of teaching the subject’s ideas and concepts. Educators and teachers dealing with microbiology sometimes resort to delivering bulky lectures which drive out the interest of most students and make the subject look abstract and entirely theoretical. In this blog, we provide 7 methods that you can incorporate into your classroom teaching to make teaching sessions more effective.

1. Think of the future when teaching

When teaching microbiology concepts, we recommend educators make their students visionaries with futuristic goals. As you share the importance of aseptic conditions, sterilization, and autoclaving procedures, help them envision how they can pave their way into the world’s best scientific laboratories. Microbiology is one of the prime research areas and with the recent Covid-19 pandemic, we further need passionate people in STEM research who can use cutting-edge technology to develop aids, vaccines, laboratory-based diagnostics, and methodologies for new variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the years to come. In a compiled study by Joseph M Blondeau, it was predicted that clinical microbiology labs should be robust to stand the tests of a pandemic. As mentioned in the study, we should train our students in such a way that they can “translate theoretical lessons into practical utility” in their careers.

2. Use engaging visuals and animations

The use of interactive visuals and animations in the class can make theoretical teaching sessions more engaging. As the complexities of microbial structures are easier to follow through illustrations, animations, GIFs, short videos, and simulations, students can easily understand what’s going on at the microscopic level. There are several freely accessible short animations available on YouTube that can simplify the science of microscopy, pipetting, staining, and microbial structures (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc). Using a freely available YT video on Gram Staining provided by Labster, you can ease the visualization game of differentiating between gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria for your students. Full Gram Staining simulation is available in the Microbiology courses of Labster.

gram stain simulation 4

3. Connect dots through stories 

Weaving stories around important microbiology concepts could be another effective way to make teaching sessions informative yet captivating. While teaching different lab techniques and methodologies like ELISA, microscopy, blotting, gel electrophoresis, etc, you can explain how researchers across the globe contribute tremendously towards a technology’s development. Humanizing the marvels of science via storytelling can be inspirational and highly motivating for students. According to a recent study by Carol Haigh and Pip Hardy, “storytelling forms the foundation of basic human experience, and its prime role in communicating science can’t ever be overestimated”. They emphasized the importance of storytelling in transmitting scientific knowledge and developing scientific temperament amongst young learners. Labster has prioritized designing all its Microbiology Course Simulations in line with this scientific fact. In the Introduction to Immunology simulation, students can virtually become a part of the subject by embodying a pathogen and invading a body to discover how immune cells and organs provide protection.

Introduction to Immunology: Organs and cells of the immune system Virtual Lab GIF

4. Use modern-day tools

Google has made life easier for all of us. We recommend educators make maximum use of the amazing variety of tools in the public domain. For example, while teaching about different aspects of bacteria that dominate the microbiological world like their isolation, growth curves, quantification, visualization, shapes, staining techniques, and bacterial types, you can keep track if all students are following your lectures or not. Using poll features of Slido, Poll Everywhere, and Google Forms, you can track in real-time if students understand the difference between different phases of bacterial growth and bacteria types. You can also use different recording and interactive platforms like Loom, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Edpuzzle to make the learning journeys enjoyable and lectures easily accessible.  

5. Make learning multi-way

Students are curious human beings and critical investigators. We recommend educators make classrooms open to discussions where diversity of opinions is welcomed. Students coming from different backgrounds and spaces can bring a variety of interesting facts as the microbiological world is extensively used in day-to-day life. From our bread to our yogurt, from our salad dressings to pickles, and from cheese to beer, microbes are used by people of different ethnicities and cultures in various ways. Having these discussions can make the microbiology classes interesting and thought-provoking. The same holds for evaluations and assessments. You can use peer grading platforms like Eduflow and Peergrade to make learning multi-way, where students can learn from the mistakes of others and collectively gather knowledge.  

6. Interest them with online talks, webinars, and courses

Different microbiology labs across the world organize webinars and online workshops that can be beneficial for learning concepts and lab techniques. Many industrial R&Ds also provide week-long or month-long internships where students can get exposure to cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art infrastructure of clinical microbiology labs. LearnToUpgrade provides a free Food Microbiology webinar where students can learn about food-borne microbes, their interactions with foods, adaptations, response mechanisms against food processing, and much more. Lindsay Petley- Ragan, the Scientific Simulation Director from Labster discusses in an online talk how Microbiology simulations can help students in availing the best of the resources that aren’t usually easily accessible. 

7. Amaze them with e-experiments!

Since most everything has gone electronic (online), why can’t scientific experiments? We recommend modern-day educators to bridge the gaps in teaching and resource/fund availability by using the Labster microbiology simulation package. Your students can engage in a variety of experiments that can clarify the theory. In the Aseptic Technique simulation, your students can help a microbiologist in the preparation of a pure culture that can be used to identify a microbe causing an infection. Even in the non-availability of biosafety cabinets (laminar flows) in your schools and colleges, you can effectively train your students using this simulation! They can learn good aseptic techniques, biosafety, and much more.

aseptic technique

Figure: A snippet from Aseptic Technique simulation from Labster that makes microbiology handling easier to learn and lessons easily accessible across the globe. 

Questions for reflection:

  • What other way have you found to engage students in microbiology class without lecturing?

  • What’s your favorite virtual lab to teach microbiology?

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