November 2013

Assembling a toolkit for biochemistry and molecular biology educators

What is the best way to build a Web-based toolkit for undergraduate faculty members to share best practices, activities and assessments in biochemistry and molecular biology?
Members of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Research Coordination Network steering committee led discussions to answer this question at two workshops during the Student-Centered Education in the Molecular Life Sciences symposium in August at Seattle University.
During the discussions, a BMB educator toolkit wish list was created. While we’re still in the early stages of building the toolkit, here we’ll touch on possible content, the submission process, information security, copyright concerns, the peer-review process and database functionalities. We hope to launch the toolkit in 2015.
What content should the toolkit contain?
The toolkit will serve as a central resource for undergraduate teachers of biochemistry and molecular biology. It will provide activities and resources to assist faculty members, especially new ones, with scholarship related to teaching and learning. Resources for new instructors, such as tips on writing syllabi and exams, will be included, as well as educational literature resources, such as those about visualization in science.
The content will be grounded in pedagogical research, and a peer-reviewed process will be implemented. An accepted submission will therefore be considered a peer-reviewed publication.
The content will be divided into the three categories:

  1. 1) core principles or foundational concepts in biochemistry and molecular biology;
  2. 2) foundational skills; and
  3. 3) foundational concepts from physics, chemistry and mathematics, or the allied fields.

Additionally, the website will have a keyword search, and resources will be organized by categories (classroom activity, assessment or others).
Which types of submissions are appropriate?
Guidelines for submission will be made available, and a review committee will be established. The committee will include ASBMB members with an understanding of educational research.
Each submission will be classroom tested, contain clear instructions, state the learning goals and objectives, give the time required for pedagogical material and identify Bloom’s level.
Each submission will include the authors’ contact info, keywords, the resource category, the level of the course where the material was used, the number of students in the course, students’ prior knowledge, guidelines for student misconceptions, the amount of time necessary for completion (in class or out of class) and pre-activity preparation instructions. For laboratory experiments, a supply list and handouts also will be included.
If an assessment is submitted, the type of assessment must be stated, and if it’s not a multiple-choice evaluation, a rubric must be provided.
Access and copyright
All published resources will be attributed to their respective authors.
We are considering providing a user-rating and comments feature and highlighting popular resources on the website. The latter would be analogous to the Protein Data Bank’s Molecule of the Month.
In the interest of not reinventing the wheel, the following well-established websites will be used as models for the ASBMB online database:

What do you think?
The Seattle workshop participants were graduate students, undergraduate science faculty members and faculty members who are interested in improving undergraduate pedagogy. As this project moves forward, designing a useful and usable BMB education toolkit will depend on input from the ASBMB community.
What are your thoughts about and suggestions for building a BMB teaching toolkit? E-mail with your comments.
For more information about the ASBMB’s role in developing concept-driven teaching strategies for biochemistry and molecular biology, visit

Ann WrightPamela MertzJohn TanseyAnn Wright ( is a professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. Pamela S. Mertz ( is an associate professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. John Tansey ( is an associate professor at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.

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