Science is the perfect vehicle for building strong communication and literacy skills. The very nature of science with its elements of wonder and discovery just naturally captivates and engages my students and I have leveraged this ability to develop the literacy skills that are critical to building knowledge in this exciting discipline.
After the completion of a science demonstration, experiment or hands-on research project my students have been afforded many opportunities to demonstrate what new information they have acquired as well as how the prior knowledge they possessed has been challenged by the data they have collected and phenomena they have observed. Being able to write effectively is key to our students gaining the ability to communicate to others that which they have experienced, imagined, and learned, to pose and defend claims, and to demonstrate mastery of concepts.
In this lesson students have the opportunity to engage in a real-world application of a core microbiology technique that they may have merely studied or one that they have actually conducted in a lab setting such as in the Combinatorial Chemistry Lab or Kirby-Bauer Technique Lab. Timed writings, referred to as Evidence Based Written Responses or EBWRs, can be used to assess students mastery of the core learning objective being investigated in a lab experiment as an alternative to traditional lab reports. It is also valuable for our students to be able to gain knowledge from elaborate diagrams and data that conveys information and illustrates scientific concepts. So students will have the opportunity to incorporate multiples sources of data gathered from charts, diagrams, illustrations, and labs as they devise a conclusion supported by evidence.
A great way to prepare for our timed writings or EBWRs was to review the scoring rubric as well as reviewing any skills needed to successfully complete the composition. Since this EBWR focuses on a student's ability to integrate multiple sources of data and not necessarily the ability to measure zones of inhibition, we reviewed this skill to ensure that proficiency of this particular concept was not a stumbling block that would limit student access to the writing prompt. Students were also given time to carefully review ALL the data provided on this topic online via our Edmodo course site in addition to the written/illustrated resources provided in the actual writing prompt.
During this pre-writing whole group discussion, I also use this valuable time to issue reminders in regards to common mistakes or misconceptions. For example, in this particular prompt I would remind students that the zone of inhibition is best measured in millimeters since this is the unit used on most zone standard charts. I would also call attention to special circumstances such as measuring the zone of inhibition created by the antibiotic Co-trimoxazole as shown on the illustration of the mock patient results. When a technician is unable to accurately measure the full diameter of the circle created it is customary to measure the radius and multiply that quantity by two.
Keep in mind that the goal is for our students to WRITE so don't consider it "cheating" or "watering down" the experience if support, guidance or information is provided to ensure that students will be able to compose an on-topic, relevant and accurate written response.
Once students measure the zones of inhibition created at the conclusion of the antibiotic susceptibility test referred to as the Kirby Bauer Assay this data must be presented in a form that can reveal any patterns and relationships and that would enable the results to be communicated to others. Because merely displaying raw data can have little meaning, a major practice of scientists is to organize and interpret data through tabulating, graphing, or statistical analysis. Such analysis can bring out the meaning of data—and their relevance—so that they may be used as evidence.
As seen in Student Response A and Student Response B students measure the zones of inhibition found on the mock patient Kirby Bauer Assay results page and communicate the data collected by arranging the measurements on a student generated data table. Students are given a minimum of 35 minutes to then answer the three writing prompts of this EBWR.