Phytogen – December 2018

Dear members, as promised, Beth Loveys has provided an article below on Biochemistry education we hope you will enjoy reading. ASBMB Education Feature PAGE 20 & 21, AUSTRALIAN BIOCHEMIST VOL 49 NO 3 DECEMBER 2018. Making the Most out of the Precious Face-to-Face in Biochemistry Practicals, Beth Loveys and Chris Ford, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide.  We all know that the time we spend face-to-face with students is invaluable for their learning and, as teachers, we are always searching for ways to value-add to face- to-face sessions. One approach that has worked for me in a second year biochemistry course is ‘flipping the laboratory’. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean turning the lab upside down! Instead, I prime the students with relevant information and methods before they come to class so that the in-class time can be used more effectively. Central to flipped classroom pedagogy is the idea that pre-class learning should introduce foundational concepts and focus on the lower ‘remember’ and ‘understand’ levels of Blooms Revised Taxonomy.                                       Biochemistry students working in the laboratory. Animal and Plant Biochemistry II has a reputation for being content-heavy and difficult for many students. Over the last eight years, my colleague, Associate Professor Chris Ford, and I have initiated many changes to the course aimed at reducing the ‘fear factor’ and making biochemistry more accessible and relevant. One of these changes has been the implementation of online, pre-practical activities. All teachers hope their students will arrive in the laboratory prepared for the class; the reality, of course, is that students are often not prepared and are therefore disengaged and confused. Many students do not read the relevant material in their laboratory manual – this makes it difficult for them to form the link between theory and application. To address this problem, I developed interactive, online pre-class activities, thus ‘flipping the laboratory’ to encourage students to prepare. Using this approach, I have developed pre-practical online activities for my students on many topics: enzyme kinetics, photosynthetic reactions and carbohydrate metabolism. The pre-practical activities provide students with examples and interactive activities including video demonstrations of relevant lab techniques. Check-point multiple choice questions with unlimited attempts help students gain confidence. Understanding foundational concepts is critical for deeper learning. Once students are engaged in a course, it is easier to maintain their interest in difficult and challenging content. I have found that in class, we now have more time for solidifying the link between theory and practice. Students have been surveyed each year since these pre-class activities were implemented and feedback is extremely positive: 85% of students felt they were better prepared for practical classes after completing the activities and 90% felt the check-point questions clarified areas of confusion. The average mark for the practical component of the course increased from 70% in 2011 (pre-flip) to over 85% in 2018 (see figure). As teachers, we hope to inspire students to discover knowledge for themselves. Providing an environment where they feel safe to try techniques that help them understand the theory presented in lectures is a great start! We are hopeful that, as a consequence, our students come to see that learning is a process, not simply a means to an end. After completing two postdoctoral positions in the UK and ACT, Dr Beth Loveys took up her position as a teaching focused academic in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide in 2011. Beth teaches across a diverse range of courses including Animal and Plant Biochemistry, Foundations in Plant Science, Viticultural Science, Introductory Wine Making, and Plant Production and Global Climate Change. In 2015, Beth was awarded an OLT citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning, and in 2018, was awarded the Australian Society of Plant Scientists Education Award. Associate Professor Chris Ford is currently Interim Head of School in the School of Agriculture Food and Wine. Prior to this, Chris was the Head of Learning and Teaching, and also has an active research laboratory examining the biochemistry of flavour compounds in wine.     Ask your colleagues, teachers and students to send articles to the websites and communications team for publishing on Phytogen.  Tweet to @asps_ozplantsand facebook, Over the holidays login in to check where your membership is up to and make sure you renew and encourage your students to join. We wish you all the best for Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.