Alternative methods for teaching structural protein biochemistry - a matter of style?

Dr H Brzeski,  University of Hertfordshire

Professor Robert Slater,  University of Hertfordshie

The presentation is concerned with the differences in learning style encountered in students who are being taught structural protein biochemistry and how this can be accommodated using different teaching methods. Firstly, some students prefer a rather defined presentation and this will be illustrated in a traditional didactic lecture format with appropriate illustrations and explanations but little interactivity. Secondly, distributed learning styles will be illustrated involving a computerised tutorial described below.

One of the most important parts of teaching protein biochemistry is to explain, to students, how a protein folds to provide a three dimensional structure which is chemically active. This folding requires a set of discrete hierarchical substructures which lead to adoption of the correct protein shape. This is conventionally taught using drawing aids or models but these either lack a feeling of depth or are cumbersome. In addition the instructor needs to be continually available to point out relevant parts of the structure and to answer questions. We have developed a computerised tutorial to model these structures. The tutorial displays the structure in such a way that the student is able to manipulate it (rotate it, view parts of the molecule, alter the colouring and display method) on screen. Not only can the student interact but the display program is able to monitor the student's interactions with the molecule continuously. This means that it is possible to identify exactly what the student has carried out to reach a particular point and the program can then provide the relevant feedback (positive or constructive help).

The presentation will consist of the two alternative styles of presenting 3D protein structures and the attendants will be able comment on the two alternative styles of learning strategy.

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