A Comparative Review of Three Microbiology Student Study Resources

A Comparative Review of Three Microbiology Student Study Resources

Wendy A. Dustman
Department of Microbiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, E-mail:
wdustman@uga.edu .

Review of: Let’s Get Ready For Microbiology ; 1st ed.; Lorri K. Garrett and Judy M. Penn; (2009). Benjamin Cummings Publishers, San Francisco, CA. 240 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0321592507.

Barron’s E-Z Microbiology ; 2nd rev. ed.; Rene Kratz; (2011) . Barron’s Educational Series Inc., Hauppauge, NY. 552 pages. ISBN: 978-0-7641-4456-1.

BIOS Instant Notes Microbiol ogy, 4th ed.; Simon Baker, Caroline Griffiths, and Jane Nicklin; (2011) . Garland Science, Taylor and Francis Group LLC., New York, NY. 355 pages. ISBN: 978-0-415-60770-4.

Let’s Get Ready For Microbiology is a workbook designed to help students prepare for success in microbiology courses. The first chapter is devoted to helping students understand learning styles, and presents the reader with a variety of study skill suggestions to practice for each. The following chapters provide readers with a primer on basic math skills and microbiology terminology, and reviews of basic science concepts including general chemistry, general biology, cell structure and function, and lastly, important microbiology concepts (one chapter out of seven).

The language is set at a high school reading level, and learning goals for each chapter are clearly listed. Few diagrams are included, but those that are included are clear and simple to understand. Pretests (Your Starting Point) help elaborate student strengths and weaknesses, and primarily consist of lower order questions (i.e., Bloom’s levels*: remembering, understanding). As the reader progresses, practice quizzes with answers and explanations (Quick Check) continue to assess progress. The text suggests that readers implement a number of different learning exercises (Time to Try, Picture This, Reality Check) that encourage higher order thinking (i.e., Bloom’s levels*: applying, analyzing, creating, evaluating). In addition, each chapter provides motivations for learning (Why Should I Care?) that relate the concepts presented back to the real world and the reader’s own experiences. Chapters end with a short cumulative exam (What Did I Learn?) for self-assessment (answers appear in the back of the book).

In general, the science reviews are superficial — little attention to specific detail of important processes is provided. For example, the major players in protein synthesis are identified and their roles defined, but discussion of initiation, elongation, and termination in protein synthesis is nonexistent. Unfortunately, this workbook does not provide additional references to foster further exploration by the reader.

Personally, I found the focus on learning strategies and development of critical thinking skills to be the most worthwhile components of this resource. I would recommend this resource to students having difficulty developing successful studying strategies, or as a premicrobiology review for students who need to brush up on biology basics before taking microbiology at any level. However, due to its simplicity in detail, I would not use it to complement a microbiology majors’ textbook.

As its main focus, Barron’s E-Z Microbiology aims to provide students with an easily digestible yet detailed explanation of microbiology core content, and provide readers a means to self-assess their learning. The breadth of microbiology content is comparable to that found in many introductory microbiology textbooks and includes: history, microscopy, cell structure and function, metabolism, growth and reproduction, control of microbial growth, microbial genetics and recombinant DNA technology, taxonomy and diversity of microbes, virology, medical microbiology, epidemiology and immunology, environmental and applied microbiology. Although not as extensive as that found in Let’s Get Ready For Microbiology , this text also includes suggestions on how to study effectively.

The text is written at college reading level and is clear and concise. The table of contents and index allow easy navigation to specific topics. Within chapter subsections, the most important take-home point is reiterated via a colored text box in the side margin for emphasis. Tables, graphs, charts, and diagrams are included in each chapter to help foster understanding of concepts; these are clear and concise and serve as meaningful contributions to the learning process. Learning goals are clearly outlined at the onset of each chapter (What You Will Learn), coupled with short narratives which point out the importance of understanding the concept. Each chapter culminates in an extensive list of review questions (short answer style, supplied with answers) and a self-test (mix of multiple choice as well as short answer style) for self-assessment. Assessment questions represent a variety of Bloom’s levels, more than half of which require the reader to employ critical thinking skills.

The depth of detail is more extensive in this resource than that found in Let’s Get Ready For Microbiology. E-Z Microbiology identifies the major players in protein synthesis and defines their roles, but also delves into the subprocesses of initiation, elongation, and termination. Though detailed, the depth of coverage is not sufficient enough to replace a textbook (e.g., minor but important players such as initiation and elongation factors go completely unmentioned).

Overall, I would suggest this as an ancillary study resource for students in my introductory microbiology majors’ course in addition to their assigned text. I would also suggest it to students who are reviewing for preprofessional exams such as MCAT and PCAT or medical board exams. It may be a bit overwhelming for a non-majors’ course, however.

Finally, BIOS Instant Notes Microbiol ogy is a text that serves as a comprehensive and condensed, yet readily detailed digest that parallels those covered in E-Z Microbiology with the exception of medical microbiology and immunology concepts; BIOS Instant Notes Immunology and also BIOS Instant Notes Medical Microbiology are available as separate titles. The main goal of this text is to provide a summary of essential microbiology facts in an easy to understand and recall fashion for students.

Written at a college reading level, chapters begin with a table of “Key Notes” that provides a brief summary of the major topic areas and also helps relate the concepts presented to those presented in other chapters. The table of contents and index provide easy navigation to specific content areas; this index is much more detailed than that included in the other two reviewed texts. Another different feature in Instant Notes are “Further Reading” sections that suggest several additional references per chapter. Diagrams are simple but effective and help the reader understand major concepts quite readily. Chapters are also replete with tables, many of which help the reader to compare/contrast the wealth of information provided in an easy-to-process fashion. Unlike the other two resources, no learning goals are provided, nor are review/practice questions included to help students assess their learning.

Explanations of processes are slightly more detailed than those found in E-Z Microbiology . Using the process of translation as a measure of comparison for all three resources, I was sorely disappointed to find that translation is merely defined in Instant Notes Microbiology , though several pages of text and diagrams are given to the process of transcription. Instead, the reader is referred to “other books within the Instant Notes series.”

I believe this text would be a good review for any microbiology course, or for review before preprofessional exams. Because it lacks a means of student self-assessment, I am skeptical as to how effectively students would find it as a complement to their course-assigned text. As a general review of all of microbiology, I was disappointed on the lack of coverage of medical microbiology and immunology as a whole, as this is often a significant component in introductory microbiology courses. Additionally, the lack of detailed coverage in a major concept such as translation (with reference to companion source instead) was also frustrating.

In summary, all three books are helpful resources but target different audiences at different levels, and they include hints on effective studying and learning to different extents.

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* A discussion of Bloom’s taxonomy, with references, can be found at: http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/bloomtax.htm ( Return to Text )

DOI: 10.1128/jmbe.v12i2.342
Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education , November 2011
Copyright © 2011 American Society for Microbiology . All Rights Reserved

ISSN: 1935-7885

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