Environmental Soil Microbiology: A Novel Research-Oriented Laboratory Course for Undergraduate Students
Laboratory courses have a central and distinctive role in sci- ence education. The need of improving laboratory curricular materials in environmental soil microbiology education is a must more than ever as due to the followings: (i) emerg- ing of new types of soil biological problems associated with new manipulated environments, (ii) the intimacy of human, plants, and animals to soil microbial activities, and (iii) en- vironmental soil-connected issues is the area of current re- search interests. We present a novel research-oriented labo- ratory course for undergraduates in soil science, according to the need of reforming the laboratory curriculum as called by the National Science Education Standards to advocate in- quiry and cognitivity in teaching and learning. Our inquiry- based environmental soil microbiology laboratory course provides a good pedagogical opportunity in promoting criti- cal thinking, making predictions, proposing causative factors, and presenting consistent arguments to support a position through effective scientific writing. The novelty of our labora- tory curriculum relies on the integration of three main com- ponents namely the “skill learning”, “research experience”, and “effective writing skills” which ultimately may help in optimizing students thinking performance towards research oriented mindset. The course is divided into two modules (I
& II), where in module I students are introduced to the basic principles and techniques in soil microbiology. As for module II, students are assigned a research project to enhance their critical thinking and develop their conceptual skills in design- ing an experiment, problem solving, gathering and analy- sis of data, and scientific writing. The unit content can be modified to suit other specific laboratory curriculums in other branches of natural science without loss of students learning efficiency or impact.