Biology and Education: Enzyme Functions and Properties

Title: An Introduction to Biology Lab: Enzyme Functions and Properties
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Biology, Chemistry, Health, Medicine, Education
Authors: Kama Almasi, Lisa Bardon, Kurt Freund, Isabelle Girard, Eric Singsaas, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Submission Date: August 15, 2007

Student Learning Goals: We have two different types of goals we hope to address in this lesson.  We have lesson-specific goals and we have a few goals that we hope to address throughout the course.  In our course goals, we emphasize improving our students’ comprehension of scientific concepts.  In the lesson goals, we focus on concepts relevant to how enzymes work.

General Biology Course Goals
Students will be able to:

  1. Express biological processes using mathematical, graphical, and visual form with figures.
  2. Improve oral and written communication skills
  3. Enhance collaboration skills
  4. Develop the following basic laboratory techniques: following a protocol, pipeting, measure  volume, timing, data recording, and graphing.
  5. Develop the parts of a scientific report: introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

Enzyme Function Lesson Goals
Students will be able to:

  1. Formulate a scientific question in terms of a testable hypothesis
  2. Discover the importance of enzymes in cellular metabolism
  3. Describe enzyme roles and how they relate to other biological aspects.  Example: How enzyme response to temperature determines where organisms can live on earth.
  4. Recognize and interpret nonlinear responses from their data
  5. Identify and correct misconceptions about biological functions, including: enzymes add energy, enzymes are “alive”, enzymes can “decide”, enzyme reactions are “on/off”.
  6. Define and apply the following vocabulary: enzyme, product, optimization, catalyst, protein, substrate, saturation, rate, and equilibrium.

Findings and Discussion: The lesson was a (3-hr) laboratory exercise on enzyme reactions. Students used simple materials tomeasure the rate of oxygen production from hydrogen peroxide in the presence of catalase, extracted from potatoes, which catalyzes this reaction. Once the students learned the basic measurement, they were asked to vary the concentration of enzyme, concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the temperature, and add an inhibitor. Students were asked to graph their results (e.g., relationship between temperature and oxygen production rate) for each experiment and to answer questions about the experiment, procedure, and results at each stage of the experiment. At the end of class, groups were asked to share their results with the class and discuss any differences between their results and other groups’ results.

As a result of information we gained during initial observation of the lesson, we substantially revised the protocol and lesson plan. In observations during labs using the revised protocol, we observed substantial improvements in students engagement with the material: student use of terminology increased, discussion of the topic material increased, student-instructor interaction increased, and attention to procedural details decreased.

The process of lesson study demonstrated to us, in a very dramatic way, how ineffective we are in assessing our lessons while we are teaching them. Although we were familiar with the end results of the unimproved lesson, we had not been able to determine the source of difficulties. Only when we were allowed to serve as observers – and not as instructors – were we able to devote the attention needed to listen to student conversations and understand the challenges. Afterwards, it was surprisingly easy in our group to generate ideas to address the inadequacies of our design.

The practice of teaching without observation or reflection now seems absolutely absurd. However, we have all agreed that our current teaching loads prevent us from applying our lessons from lesson study in any practical way.

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.