Dr. David J. Westenberg, associate professor of biological sciences at the
University of Missouri-Rolla, has been selected for the American Society for
Microbiology Scholars-in-Residence Program. He is one of 13 biology educators
in the nation to be selected.
This year-long residency is aimed at improving student learning in the
microbiological and biological sciences. ASM Scholars were chosen through a
nationally competitive selection process that identified teaching excellence
and national leadership.
Participants in the Scholars-in-Residence Program are required to formulate
a hypothesis about student learning and develop a plan to test the hypothesis;
conduct research to further their hypothesis and publish their results in a
peer-reviewed literature, sharing their expertise both locally and
Westenberg’s project focuses on the effectiveness of his microbiology course
assignment called “Microbe of the Week."
“I put this assignment into the course as a way to teach the students about
microbial diversity and to get them more actively involved in the class by
doing brief presentations," Westenberg explains, and he has gathered
positive feedback from the students.
“It’s fun for the students and for me, but I wanted to know if the
assignment was truly effective in teaching them about microbiology."
His project will focus on the ways students search for and gather
information on microbiology. He feels that by studying the general
information-gathering process, his project will have a broader impact on other
“I have reconsidered how and why I use the exercise, which will not only
make it more viable as a research project, but will also make it a more
valuable learning tool for my students."
Westenberg will test his project during the spring 2008 semester, when he
next teaches microbiology. He will spend this semester continuing his research
on information gathering and in developing the assessment instruments he will
use to monitor how his students search for microbiology information.
“I’ll look at how they evaluate their search results and how they apply that
information to their course work," Westenberg says.
Westenberg will present his research findings during the 2008 American
Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators to be held in
Boston in May. He hopes to prepare a manuscript for publication in the Journal
of Microbiology and Biology Education.