Gail E. Rowe, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, La Roche College
This laboratory manual was designed to accompany an undergraduate microbiology lecture course. The author states that it works equally well for a biology majors’ course or for a course with a health sciences emphasis. I think it would be best used to support a microbiology course for nursing or health sciences, since the focus is on microbes of the human body and microbial diseases. For example the Human Skin Microbiome Project uses the human body as the environment, and food microbiology is addressed as food safety from pathogens. The introduction to common shapes and sizes of bacteria uses the natural microbial community of the human body. This teaching strategy shows microbes in a community, which is more natural then providing students with pure cultures, and may also stimulate student interest by making the source personal (their own mouths). The choice of the human body as a source of bacteria for these exercises further supports use of this lab manual for health sciences or nursing students.
A particular strength of this textbook is the presence of brief activities and questions to be completed by students that are embedded within the background information. This strategy will likely draw students into more active learning, rather than passively listening to a lab lecture or just reading (or not reading) the manual prior to lab class.
Microscopy was presented with a good balance between use of the microscope vs. the physics behind its function. The author included sufficient theory for students to understand how a microscope works so they can make adjustments for optimal viewing, without covering unnecessary technical detail that might overwhelm the students. Similarly, the section on metabolism presents a very nice overview of the subject; including sufficient theory related to the lab topic without excessive detail.
The author effectively uses scaffolding to teach students how to create a dichotomous key for bacterial identification. By “walking” the students through the steps related to identifying traits (colony morphology, Gram reaction, other staining, biochemical tests), the manual systematically builds from simple questions and answers to a more complex and integrated problem of creating the dichotomous key. This strategy helps students sort out what they need to ask themselves at each step of building a dichotomous key, rather than just instructing them in the various identification methods without guidance on how to organize the tests in a systematic manner.