no special training is required for their use. Hence, these exercises
can be used with learners at many different levels and at diverse
types of institutions. Second, no hazardous materials are used in
these procedures, eliminating risks to students and the necessity
for specialized disposal practices. Finally, these procedures provide
robust and highly replicable quantitative data that students can use
for graphical analysis.
Graphs can be initiated in class with instructor guidance or
given as homework, depending on the academic level of students.
We conclude that these procedures align with the current emphasis on the development of quantitative skills in biology education
(AAMC-HHMI Committee, 2009; Labov et al., 2010; Woodin
et al., 2010).
The activities proposed here can be followed up by a guided-inquiry exercise in which students are provided the baseline procedure, and then they design an investigation to measure alteration of
enzyme activity by variations on the factors examined in the first
week. Student understanding of the baseline procedure can be
assessed with a brief quiz or class discussion, allowing the instructor to clarify any points of confusion. Teams of students can then
be tasked with designing procedures to examine the effects of various manipulations on the activity of this enzyme. For example, students can choose to evaluate the effect of 10× substrate or 0.25×
enzyme concentration or pH 9. In this situation, the baseline procedure serves as a starting point, and students must apply their
understanding of both enzyme kinetics and scientific practices in
order to solve the problem.
For younger students or those who have limited experience
with experimental design, it may be necessary for the instructor
to either suggest or directly assign the design of certain procedures to the groups. For instance, one group could be tasked with
investigating the effect of changing pH and another with investigating the effect of changing substrate concentration. More
mature students can be offered more freedom to design procedures according to their own knowledge and interests. Additionally, more advanced students may also choose to investigate new
factors, such as competitive or noncompetitive inhibitors. The
instructor will be available for guidance during the class period,
but the students themselves are responsible for selecting appropriate experimental parameters, including time, temperature, pH,
sample numbers, and controls. Once their experimental design
is approved by the instructor, the students can actually perform
their procedures and share their experimental design and data
obtained with other groups in the class. This presents a peer
teaching opportunity, and hence a student engagement tool.
Because the results are quantitative, they can undertake graphical
analysis of their findings. As a final assessment, students can complete a written assignment such as a lab report. Rissing and Cogan
(2009) reported significant learning gains in students who participated in a similar guided-inquiry laboratory module, compared
to students who participated in a standard, “cookbook” style laboratory exercise.
In conclusion, a budget-friendly, nonhazardous process can be
employed to quantitatively study enzyme kinetics. Furthermore,
this process can be augmented to increase student investment if
students are given the opportunity to design their own experiments
and to evaluate parameters beyond those dictated by a lab manual.
The activity serves as an experiential learning activity since the students are learning by editing the experimental design, by performing their own experiments, and by presenting the results in
graphical form. For this team-based activity to be performed successfully the students have to think critically, solve issues with
the experiment, and be open to and utilize feedback from the guiding instructor.
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