Building Professional Communication Skills in Microbiology
– Karen Sullivan, LSU Instructor of Biological Sciences, explores the benefits of student presentations in her advanced microbiology laboratory course.
Objectives for the course & major projects:
- Students will demonstrate familiarity with the essential theory and practice of microbiological manipulations such as lab safety, microscopy, aseptic technique, identification methods (staining, culturing) and quantitative techniques (pipetting, population counts)
- Students will be able to demonstrate mastery of a broad range of basic lab skills applicable to microbiology.
- Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the diversity of microorganisms and their similarities and differences to one another.
- Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of various methodologies such as utilization of appropriate culture media and biochemical tests used to isolate, culture, observe and identify microorganisms.
- Students will develop skills in the areas of analytical thinking, communication and citizenry.
- Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate orally and in writing in a clear, concise manner as demonstrated through lab reports, presentations, and discussions.
- Students will demonstrate the ability to function effectively on team-oriented projects.
- Students will demonstrate an understanding of the scientific method and experimental design.
Within the scientific community there is a deficit of effective communicators. Regardless of how intelligent or even brilliant someone might be, an inability to communicate effectively can be crippling. BIOL 3116 gives students the opportunity to present their research experiences orally and in writing, which gives us an in edge in the increasingly competitive bid for admissions into graduate and professional schools. I have come to really understand the adage that it doesn't really matter if you have the right answer or the best solution, if you can't tell anybody."
-Joseph B. Bond, LSU Senior, Biological Sciences & Psychology, reflects on his junior-year experience in BIOL 3116. Joseph serves as the Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for the Fall 2009 section of BIOL 3116.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
This course integrates the study of microbiology with an emphasis on the important skills of: 1) critical thinking; 2) scientific writing; and 3) public presentation. This course seeks to provide students with an understanding of important scientific concepts, laboratory techniques, an ability to think critically, and an understanding of the importance of microbiology to society in general. This course also seeks to contribute to some of the department of Biological Sciences departmental goals such as supporting science education in the community including efforts aimed at K-12 science, preparing students to pursue advanced and professional degrees successfully and/or enter the workforce with the tools to continue life-long advancement, educating voters on scientific policy, and contributing to our ever-expanding understanding of biological processes.
The majority of graded assignments are communication-based. Students are expected to prove their mastery of the study of microbiology by being able to express their processes and results through the spoken and written word.
Teaching Notes and Tips
To improve the quality of presentations from students and to ensure consistent grading, establish very clear guidelines and tips for presentations. Listed below are some general suggestions for framing an assessment; more detailed assessment guidelines are linked below.
1. Introduce/define objective, keeping in mind audience is hearing information for the first time
2. Show methods, clearly and simply, used to obtain results
3. Interpretation of findings, and significance
Students are asked to structure the subject as if they were teaching material to an introductory laboratory section of a microbiology class.
- 10-15 minutes
- Bullet form – no complete sentences
- Photos and diagrams – go easy on text
- Rule of thumb – text slides ~1 minute/slide, photos take less time
- Presentation style – don't just read the slides
- Include some "new" information that is not found in the lab manual
BIOL 3116 Oral Presentations: Tips for Students and Criteria for Assessment (Acrobat (PDF) 220kB Nov2 09)