The need to improve microscopy trainings

The LCI facility has just published an article about  ‘Improving light microscopy training routines with evidence-based education’. The article is now available in the Journal of Microscopy. We hope that this article will give useful tips to better design users’ training and improve their learning outcome. 🙂

Here is the abstract:

The low reproducibility of scientific data published in articles has recently become a cause of concern in many scientific fields. Data involving light microscopy is no exception. The low awareness of researchers of the technologies they use in their research has been identified as one of the main causes of the problem. Potential solutions have hinted at the need to improve technological and methodological education within research.

Despite the pivotal role of microscopy core facilities in the education of researchers being well documented, facility staff (FS) often learn their trade on the job, without receiving themselves any structured education about the technology they teach others to use. Additionally, despite endorsing an important role at the highest level of education, most FS never receive any training in pedagogy, the field of research on teaching and learning methods.

In this article, we argue that the low level of awareness that researchers have of microscopy stems from a knowledge gap formed between them and microscopy FS during training routines. On the one hand, FS consider that their teaching task is to explain what is needed to produce reliable data. On the other, despite understanding what is being taught, researchers fail to learn the most challenging aspects of microscopy, those involving their judgement and reasoning. We suggest that the misunderstanding between FS and researchers is due to FS not being educated in pedagogy and thus often confusing understanding and learning.

To bridge this knowledge gap and improve the quality of the microscopy education available to researchers, we propose a paradigm shift where training staff at technological core facilities be acknowledged as full-fledged teachers and offered structured education not only in the technology they teach but also in pedagogy. We then suggest that training routines at facilities be upgraded to follow the principles of the Constructive Alignment pedagogical method. We give an example of how this can be applied to existing microscopy training routines. We also describe a model to define where the responsibility of FS in training researchers begins and ends.

This involves a major structural change where university staff involved in teaching research technologies themselves receive appropriate education. For this to be achieved, we advocate that funding agencies, universities, microscopy and core facility organisations mobilise resources of time and funding. Such changes may involve funding the creation and development of ‘Train-the-trainer’ type of courses and giving incentives for FS to upgrade their technological and pedagogical knowledge, for example by including them in career paths. We believe that this paradigm shift is necessary to improve the level of microscopy education and ultimately the reproducibility of published data.

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