Teaching Practicum Reflections – Antigen-Antibody Reactions

Quite the interesting process in revising my second lesson based on formative feedback obtained from the previous class – I continually adopted the learner’s lens and was consciously shifting into their perspective. Effortful yet incredibly rewarding. I included an agenda slide to provide a broad roadmap for the lesson. I altered the discussion questions in my participatory learning activity to leverage different expertise from the students. I was impatient and almost giddy to see how the students respond to this more tailored lesson. Even more so, because my mentor was observing and I’d be getting extra feedback on my teaching!

The learning objectives were – by the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. Describe the relationship between the three-dimensional structure of antibodies, antigen-binding specificity and the resulting antigen-antibody reactions
  2. Explain concepts of affinity and of avidity, as well as their influence on antigen-antibody reactions
  3. Discuss how antigen-antibody reactions may be exploited in the generation of biologic therapeutics
  4. Compare and contrast polyclonal and monoclonal antibody production methods.

I began the lesson by acknowledging and reviewing their thoughtful feedback and stated my intention to actively improve my teaching through incorporation of their feedbacks. As we were building on the previous lecture, I included a quick review of last lecture’s content with simple recall questions to activate their prior knowledge. Brief lecture intermixed with small group discussion to deepen their conceptualization of the various factors influencing antigen-antibody interactions. Specific instructions around group composition for the final activity (themed around therapeutic biologics) allowed the students to take advantage of one another’s expertise. The class concluded with a large group debrief around the comparative benefits and drawbacks of two antibody production methods.

I was really pleased with how the lesson went – I felt anchored and more confident in my role as an instructor. The biggest improvement, compared to the last class, was the overall productiveness of student discussion. In circulating amongst the groups, observing their interactions, clarifying their misunderstanding, and challenging their thought process with additional prompting questions, the students seemed more engaged with the material and even facilitated one another’s learning in discussions. One thing that I want to be more mindfully aware as an instructor going forward is to always have a plan B approach when the learners have less prior knowledge than expected (I was rather shocked and disappointed that no one could identify the two major protein secondary structure in a fourth year class..!)

My mentor provided some great suggestions in including announcement and question slides to reduce my cognitive load, as one technique to increase my presence in the classroom and to reduce the number of “read-my-mind” questions! Also, she noticed students whispering to one another after I pose a question. Perhaps incorporating more think-pair-share activities to minimize not-so-silent silences and to provide a structure space for students’ learning process.

Overall, students’ feedbacks (SoTL – Formative Feedback From V.2) on this lesson were surprisingly positive (phew!). They were appreciative of the overall flow, frequent references to last lecture content, and the thought behind the design of last activity. Some of them thought the active learning components were the most useful aspects of this lesson for their learning! I think in being transparent and in sharing my learning process around how to teach more effectively, the students were more willing to support my learning in helping them learn. It’s a dynamic I really enjoy and a relationship I feel privileged to be a part of :)

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