Workshop on Biochemistry Education:

Workshop on Biochemistry Education: Assessment Strategies in Protein Structure

as a
Satellite of the XXXIII Congress of the Spanish Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Córdoba, Spain, September 2010

Updated information will be made available at
14 -15 sept. 2010

Supported by International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB), Sociedad Española de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular (SEBBM) and Universidad de Córdoba.



There is an increasing concern among University instructors related to the shifts in teaching practice brought by the adaptation of degrees to the European Space for Higher Education. A similar interest exists in other countries outside Europe where the value of active learning is also acknowledged and such changes sought. Among the major worries is the issue of how to assess the student learning outcomes, particularly so for out-of-class work and student-driven activities.


This workshop proposes to offer expert guidance, as well as to foster discussion among the attendants, about how to construct assessment materials that evaluate the student assimilation of the subject. This exchange will crystallise in the collaborative elaboration, discussion and improvement of a question set during the meeting, in the topics of protein structure and protein function.
Leading lines of the workshop will be:

  • The design of questions and activities that focus on integrated knowledge and higher-order understanding, rather than plain memorisation of facts.
  • The use of molecular visualisation tools to support both the questions presented and the seeking of the answer by the student.


There will be a few lectures by experts in the fields of assessment, instructional design and the use of molecular visualisation in teaching.
Following that, the attendants will assemble into working groups in order to elaborate question sets. Depending on the personal interests, parallel groups will focus on the use of molecular visualisation (specifically Jmol-based software tools) to support the questions, or alternatively on the design of questions of a more generic or classic format.
The groups will work under the guidance of both the lecturers and other tutors with experience in either assessment techniques or implementation of molecular visualisation. Their first task will be to establish a blueprint, or definition of what needs to be assessed. For example, topics in peptide bonds, secondary and tertiary structure, protein folding (and misfolding), ligand binding, protein-protein interactions, pathological alterations, etc. Then they will construct the questions to cover that blueprint. Following, the draft question sets will be presented in a joint session with all groups, and discussed in order to do a final revision of the material later on.

• Angel Herráez
Coordinator of the Education Group of SEBBM
Dep. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Univ. of Alcalá, Spain.

• Manuel J. Costa
Lecturer and Coordinator of the Medical Education Unit, Univ. do Minho, Portugal.
Member of the Education Committee of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Expert in education quality monitorisation and pedagogical training of instructors.
• Eric Martz
Professor Emeritus of Cell Biology and Immunology, Univ. of Massachusetts, USA.
World leader in macromolecular visualization.
Lead developer of Chime applications, Protein Explorer, First Glance, and First Glance in Jmol. Developer of Proteopedia. Expert Jmol author.
• Jaime Prilusky
Head of the Bioinformatics Unit, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.
Lead developer of OCA, Proteopedia, 3DBase and 3D Browser. Expert Jmol author.
• Frieda Reichsman
Molecules in Motion, USA, and The Concord Consortium, USA.
Lead Teacher/Teacher Professional Developer.
Multimedia designer and illustrator for several scientific journals and textbooks. Expert Jmol author.


Tuesday, Sept. 14

9.00 - 13.30Welcome
Session 1
Session 2 (part)
13.30 - 15.30Workshop Lunch
15.30 - 19.00Session 3
Session 2 (part)
21.00Workshop Dinner

Wednesday, Sept. 15

9.00 - 11.30Session 2 (part)
Session 4
12.00Workshop ends


Despite the programming, development of the workshop should be dynamic and open to discussion and focus on topics that prove interesting to the attendants.

Session 1: Defining learning outcomes on protein structure
What should students learn? (joint presentation lead by Angel Herráez)
o Define what we believe students should take out of courses in terms of content and abilities about protein structure
o Preliminary list of learning topics
How can molecular models help in that? (joint presentation lead by Angel Herráez)
o A brief overview, without specific details
o A comparison grid with the different software tools
Small group discussion: work on the preliminary list of items: discuss, expand, suggest, improve

Session 2: How teaching can lead there
• Examples and tools (these talks will be distributed along the workshop)
Strategies for using interactive 3D visualization in learning structure-function relationships (Eric Martz)
Proteopedia: a teaching and learning tool, not just an encyclopedia (Jaime Prilusky)
Showing molecules with style: effective ways of presenting structure (Frieda Reichsman)

Session 3: Designing the assessment
• General talk: Methods and practices in assessment (Manuel Costa)
• Some examples of good assessment items
Work in small groups: design assessment pieces for some of the learning outcomes
• Discussion: detect and discuss difficulties found in assessing outcomes related to protein structure
• A topic for discussion: Can the teaching/learning visualization tools be also used in assessment?

Session 4: Conclusions
• Talk: Aligning the assessment with the syllabus on protein structure: knowledge, competences, consequences (joint presentation lead by Manuel Costa)
Keep the boost: plans to build a collaborative bank of assessment items (SEBBM website)