Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Socratic versus blink

I am sure most of you have read if not heard about Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. I remember reading it just after I finished reading Every Patient Tells a Story by Lisa Sanders. Between those two books I 1) became even more scared of my doctors, 2) thought really seriously about the way I often do things- not as Socratic as I should and too often trusting my rapid thinking and my intuition (which often is not as sharp as I would like it to be).
HE agar

E. coli on LEMB agar
I just came home from a Microbiology class I teach. One of our lab assignments is to separate 2 enterics using Hektoen Enteric Agar and Levine EMB agar. If you are not in the Micro field, these are two media that will differentiate bacteria based on a variety of biochemical criteria, such as fermentation of certain sugars and production of H2S. Our lab tech had prepared demos of what the combinations of enterics would look like on HE and LEMB, and they were there for the students to observe.
Our department has very stringent rules about cell phones in the lab, so there was no way the students could take pictures of the plates. It crossed my mind "How old-fashioned!" observing the students taking notes of what they saw. But then...I changed my mind. I was listening to a group of students comparing notes and debating which plate belonged to which enteric combination. They went back and forth, comparing notes from their lab book and their previous observations. They looked at the plates several times. And after maybe 15 minutes, in that small group, they got it right. And I was delighted to hear their analysis, and wondered if they had gone to such detail if they had just taken a picture and gone home with it. 
So, my dilemma is- how to combine the "blink" style of all the new teaching tools with a rigorous analysis and processing? 

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