from 69 percent to 95 percent between pre- and post-assessment,
representing a normalized learning gain of 83 percent (Figure 3A
As an additional means of assessing misconception resolution
through this pedagogy, students were asked relevant questions in their
Perceptions Survey. Of the respondents, 88 percent “agreed” or
“strongly agreed” with the statement, “Prior to the class session, I had
misconceptions about the material,” and the majority of the respondents, 66 percent, “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that working through
the case helped resolve their misconceptions about the Ebola virus
Discussion and Implications
In this study, implementation of the case study approach in teaching
about a relevant and emerging infectious disease yielded significant
pre-/post-learning gains, and was received favorably by the students.
Indeed, our work shows that The Ebola Wars: General Edition case
can be effective at resolving student misconceptions about the Ebola
virus and the disease it causes, and suggests that this pedagogical
design in general may be useful in accomplishing similar goals for
other emerging infectious diseases. To this end, instructors can build
on the framework of the published case to support student learning
about other infectious diseases, relevant to the time of instruction
and enhancing biological knowledge beyond what is learned from
the media or other sources. Specifically, as Parts I–III focus on concepts in general virology, only minor changes made to the main character’s storyline would be necessary, maintaining much or all of the
biological information and student questions intact. Then Parts IV,
V, and VI could progress through the morphology, life cycle, treatment options, and disease outcomes relevant to the virus of choice.
The particular infectious disease to feature would be dependent on
the global health situation at the time of instruction, but emerging
viruses and those causing significant outbreaks, such as HIV, influenza, and Zika, may make for particularly impactful selections.
There are several extensions to this study that could provide
interesting and important data. As this study included exclusively
female participants at a private university, in the future it would be
informative to conduct studies extending the findings of this work
to examine if distinct demographics (e.g., gender, geographical location, underrepresented ethnicities, first-generation status, etc.) experience differences in learning gains and perceptions of the pedagogy
generally, and this case, specifically. In future implementations, to
more fully explore student misconceptions about the Ebola virus
prior to instruction, the Virus and Ebola Misconceptions Assessment
(VirEMiA) (Miller, 2016), which was still in the process of publication during this study, could be completed by the students. Additionally, a direct comparison of lecture-based pedagogy covering
identical content as the case would provide further evidence regarding the efficacy of the case study itself. Also, examining whether
completing this case led to students having improved critical thinking skills regarding distinct topics within the field of the biological
sciences would be insightful to the broader impacts of this pedagogy.
Finally, exploring ways that case-based learning on emerging infectious diseases can be integrated within course-based research experiences is an area of interest.
Overall, when combined with past studies examining case
study pedagogies used to teach in distinct content areas (Bonney,
2015; Breslin & Buchanan, 2008; Herreid, 2013; Krain, 2016),
our work provides insight into pedagogy that supports student scientific literacy. Specifically, this study also examines the prevalence
of misconceptions about the Ebola virus (in the undergraduate
cohort the United States) and identifies an effective means to
address these misconceptions, an area that is lacking in the literature (Miller, 2016).
The case study described in this article is currently published in the
National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science Database and
was presented as a Microbrew presentation at the 2016 conference
hosted by the American Society for Microbiology Committee on
Undergraduate Education. Support was provided by a University
of Saint Joseph Student Research Award to Maria Teixeira (funded
by institutional grant P031A140103 from the Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education.).
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