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Microbiology honours students' conceptual development during a beer brewing teaching learning sequence (TLS)

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Brewing is defined as “the combined processes of preparing beverages from the infusion of sound grains that have undergone sprouting, and the subsequent fermentation of the sugary solution produced, by yeast-whereby a proportion of the carbohydrate is converted to ethanol and carbon-dioxide.” It is a complex process that requires knowledge of concepts from disciplines such as biochemistry, chemistry, engineering, microbiology and physics. The micro-brewery apparatus at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is used by the discipline of microbiology as part of a brewing exercise to introduce students to industrial microbiology with the aim of developing their conceptual understanding of the process. So far, though, no research has been conducted in order to fully establish the effectiveness of this exercise in developing such understanding of the brewing process. The aim, therefore, of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a micro-brewing Teaching-Learning Sequence (TLS) that incorporates the micro-brewery, for promoting students‟ understanding of the scientific concepts of relevance to the brewing process. The following research questions were addressed: 1) What concepts are essential for understanding the process of beer brewing? 2) Did those students with sound conceptions develop deeper understanding during the TLS? 3) Did students show any conceptual difficulties with the brewing concepts? 4) Did any remediation of such difficulties occur during the TLS? 5) Did students show retention of (mis)understanding two months after the brewing practical? 6) What were students‟ attitudes and motivational levels like during the brewing practical? 7) How well did students rate their experiences of the whole TLS? 8) How well did students‟ motivational levels and their rating of the TLS correlate with any changes in understanding? The study involved ten microbiology honours students subjected to a TLS which consisted of: i) three brewing lectures aimed at introducing students to the brewing process; ii) pre- & post tests including concept mapping tasks aimed at addressing research questions 2, 3 & 4; iii) a brewing practical aimed at facilitating students‟ development of mental models and conceptual understanding of the brewing process and their motivation and attitude to this exercise (addressing question 6 & 8); iv) a group discussion which involved a group tasting session and the evaluation and discussion of each group‟s final beer product; v) semi-structured interviews to establish the source (s) of students‟ difficulties and their retention of knowledge or difficulties (questions 2, 4, & 5 addressed); and vi) an evaluation questionnaire aimed at obtaining student opinion of the TLS (addressing question 7). The data obtained was analyzed via inductive analysis. The results revealed the following brewing difficulties: i) belief that glycolysis reactions are non-consecutively linked chemical reactions which are independent of one another; ii) confusion that whirl-pooling cools the wort; and iii) belief that the final specific gravity value is a measure of the amount of sugars converted to ethanol. Comparison between the pre- & post test responses indicated that some students‟ (B, D & K) conceptual understanding including integrated knowledge of the brewing process improved during the TLS and their brewing difficulties were remediated. In contrast, other students‟ (A, C, E, G, H, J & I) conceptual understanding did not improve during the TLS and their brewing difficulties were not remediated. There was also a positive correlation between student attitudes and motivation towards the brewing practical and the quality of their learning outcomes. Students (B, D & K) who showed high motivational levels and cognitively and physically took part in the TLS showed improved conceptual understanding of the brewing process and retention of knowledge, while those showing low motivational levels did not improve. Furthermore, there are students (G, H & J) who showed high motivational levels during the TLS but their conceptual understanding of the brewing process did not improve. The results obtained suggest that the TLS, based on the micro-brewery apparatus, was at least partially effective in facilitating the development of students‟ conceptual understanding and visualization of the brewing process and the remediation of some of their difficulties, which in some case correlated well with their motivational levels and attitudes towards the brewing exercise. More research is however required to fully confirm the usefulness of such TLSs in brewing education.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2010.


Brewing--Study and teaching (Higher)--KwaZulu-Natal., Microbiology--Study and teaching (Higher)--KwaZulu-Natal., Concept learning., Motivation (Psychology)--KwaZulu-Natal., College students--Attitudes., Comprehension., Theses--Biochemistry.