Engaging Undergraduate Students in Food Safety Study and Food Microbiology Research

Ellen Mendez, Cassandra Jones, Valentina Trinetta

Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 164-170, May 2020

Volume 40, Issue 3: Pages 164–170

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Despite the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines, the interest and test scores of students in this field seem to lag every year in the United States. Food science may be an ideal tool for enhancement of STEM education, because of its universality, cultural importance and scientific diversity. This study focused on the implementation of teaching tools to engage undergraduate students in learning about food safety and food microbiology. During the Food Microbiology class, three engagement strategies were used: agar art, outbreak case studies and a research group project. The agar art contest was conducted to learn and highlight bacterial morphological diversity; case studies were presented through short stories to teach microbiological and epidemiological principles and practices, and students were challenged with a research group project in which two plating alternatives were compared with regard to assessment of food preservation strategies. Quizzes, appraisal of laboratory notebooks and exams were used to evaluate learning outcomes. By the end of the semester, ~ 95% (55/58) of the undergraduate students had learned about foodborne pathogen characteristics through case studies, in-class discussion and a research project. Data were compared with data on the previous 2 years, in which no or minimal engagement strategies had been implemented. A pre- and post-questionnaire were used to assesses students’ engagement. The results demonstrate that creative engagement strategies are beneficial for supporting and enhancing students’ learning about food safety.

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