Improve Student Learning by Writing or Reviewing for JMBE

March 24, 2023

The Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education (JMBE) publishes articles that focus on K-12 education, undergraduate and graduate education at colleges and universities, and education in informal settings. JMBE is an open-access, indexed and peer-reviewed journal. It is written for a wide readership and speaks to practitioners, educators and scholars in the area of discipline-based education research and teaching and learning.

JMBE focuses on scientific education, written by educators who put their skillsets into practice. The journal is divided into 4 sections: Research, Tips and Tools, Perspectives and Curriculum—all of which can help improve student learning. In this article, we discuss what makes each section of JMBE different and hear from senior editors on their experiences as reviewers for the journal.  

Sections of JMBE 

Tips and Tools 

The types of manuscripts that make up the tips-and-tools section are wide-reaching—they cover novel ideas from K-12 education, undergraduate and graduate education and informal education. The goal of this section is to provide educators with immediate teaching tips to implement in the classroom or at the start of a new term. This section can include: 
  • New spins on old ideas.  
  • Innovative tools to teach students.  
  • Faculty development programs.  
The structure for a tips-and-tools manuscript includes an introduction, procedure, conclusion, acknowledgements and references. Figures, tables, data and visuals are optional but welcomed because they increase readability and clarity. Supplementary materials are optional and can include handouts, specific instructions or Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval information, which is required for research involving human subjects.  

To view an example of a tips and tools article from JMBE, view "Using a One Health Assignment as a Final Project in a Microbiology Course." 

Research 

The manuscripts in this section are novel scholarships related to science education, teaching and learning. Key features of research articles include that they state a clear research question about a topic related to teaching and learning and use qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods approaches to collect data that address that research question. The topics in this section can include: 
  • Novel learning activities backed by evidence. 
  • New curriculum courses. 
  • Student learning and engagement.  
Each manuscript must contain an abstract and introduction, which includes where the research project fits in the context of the literature and what research questions were tested. The methods portion of JMBE research manuscripts has information on how the data were collected, what assessments were used, statistical information and IRB approval applied. The results can have tables to make the article more reader-friendly. The discussion summarizes the findings, explains how the research project fits in the broader field and future research topics that can stem from the current project.  

An example of a research article from JMBE is "Building Connections to Biology and Community through Service-Learning and Research Experiences." 

Curriculum 

The goal of curriculum articles is to describe the details of lesson plans used in the classroom and/or laboratory. The manuscripts act as resources to instructors by providing ready-to-use materials, descriptions of field testing and assessments. The curriculum manuscripts include an introduction that contains prerequisite student knowledge, learning time and measurable learning outcomes.  

Next, the procedures portion of the manuscripts contain a detailed list of materials, step-by-step directions for instructors/students and generalized student handouts. Lastly, the discussion section includes evidence for each learning outcome and any modifications to make the activities more broadly applicable.  

View "A Novel Undergraduate Seminar Course Celebrating Scientific Contributions by Scientists from Historically Marginalized Communities" to see an example of a curriculum article from JMBE. 

Perspectives 

Perspective articles take a particular topic, current issue or problem of interest to educators and places it in a broader context. The manuscripts can include topics on: 
  • Curriculum changes. 
  • Educational challenges. 
  • Faculty development modifications.  
The manuscript contains an introduction that identifies the education problem, challenge or issue and previous scholarly attempts to resolve the problem. The introduction then includes how the author’s work addresses the problem or challenge and provides next steps. 

"A Lesson from the Pandemic: Utilizing Digital Tools to Support Student Engagement during Instructional Assistant-Led Sessions" is an example of a perspectives article from JMBE. 

JMBE Senior Editors and Editor in Chief Share Their Reviewing Experiences and Tips 

Samantha Parks, Ph.D., Senior Editor of the Research section of JMBE and Senior Lecturer at Georgia State University, became a stronger writer by learning the common mistakes that author's make in manuscripts and avoiding them in her own writing. The most common issues she finds when reviewing research manuscripts submitted to JMBE include:  
  1. Author guidelines were not followed.  
  2. Lack of proofreading of the final manuscript before the submission.  
  3. Background information was not complete or inappropriately cited. 
  4. Research questions and/or hypothesis was not clear. 
  5. Procedural details were incomplete. 
Carlos Goller, Ph.D., Senior Editor of the Curriculum section of JMBE and an Associate Teaching Professor at North Carolina State University, originally felt that he wasn’t prepared to review papers. However, Goller’s hesitations disappeared once he started to get a clear pulse of the JMBE climate and the community, and he saw that the instructions for reviewing papers were clearly outlined. "The benefits to reviewing JMBE manuscripts are that you learn something new about teaching and your teaching becomes better. You can’t review JMBE articles the same way as you would review scientific articles because you must consider lab safety, feasibility and how the study can be replicated in another environment,” Goller said.  

Stanley Maloy, Ph.D., Editor in Chief of JMBE, former Editor in Chief of Microcosm, past ASM President and Professor of Biology at San Diego State University, was elected as a 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow for his contributions to bench research, teaching and service to society. Maloy has extensive experience in introducing new teaching approaches, such as using online forums to promote student discussion and developing a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) (before the term was invented) to integrate active learning into a very large class.

For every new educational approach Maloy took, he determined if there was evidence to support the continued use of the approach and discovered that his colleagues were more likely to use a new teaching approach if they saw compelling evidence that it improved student learning—this is where JMBE fits in by providing evidence-based educational articles. The reviewers focus on providing advice on what can be done to make the manuscript better instead of rejecting manuscripts that describe an interesting concept. “This approach ensures that useful education research is able to reach other educators to have an impact beyond the author’s institution,” Maloy said.  

Author: Shilpa Gadwal

Shilpa Gadwal
Shilpa Gadwal is the Career Resources Specialist at ASM.