2022 journal article
Hands-on immunology: Engaging learners of all ages through tactile teaching tools
FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY, 13.
Ensuring the public has a fundamental understanding of human-microbe interactions, immune responses, and vaccines is a critical challenge in the midst of a pandemic. These topics are commonly taught in undergraduate- and graduate-level microbiology and immunology courses; however, creating engaging methods of teaching these complex concepts to students of all ages is necessary to keep younger students interested when science seems hard. Building on the Tactile Teaching Tools with Guided Inquiry Learning (TTT-GIL) method we used to create an interactive lac operon molecular puzzle, we report here two TTT-GIL activities designed to engage diverse learners from middle schoolers to masters students in exploring molecular interactions within the immune system. By pairing physical models with structured activities built on the constructivist framework of Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), TTT-GIL activities guide learners through their interaction with the model, using the Learning Cycle to facilitate construction of new concepts. Moreover, TTT-GIL activities are designed utilizing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to include all learners through multiple means of engagement, representation, and action. The TTT-GIL activities reported here include a web-enhanced activity designed to teach concepts related to antibody-epitope binding and specificity to deaf and hard-of-hearing middle and high school students in a remote setting and a team-based activity that simulates the evolution of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) haplotype of a population exposed to pathogens. These activities incorporate TTT-GIL to engage learners in the exploration of fundamental immunology concepts and can be adapted for use with learners of different levels and educational backgrounds.