ASM Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology



• Purpose 

• Documents 

 Community of Users  

• History and Next Steps


Are you an instructor who wants to…

  • Get content ideas for your microbiology courses?
  • Learn what are the most important concepts for undergraduate General Microbiology courses?
  • Find new ways to connect microbiology concepts?

Do you want your students to…

  • Learn critical thinking and scientific thinking skills?
  • Develop transferable skills that are important for the students’ future, such as written and oral communication, learning how to learn, and quantitative reasoning?
  • Apply microbiology course content to solve problems?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then ASM’s Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology would be useful to you!

Purpose of the ASM Curriculum Guidelines

The purpose of ASM’s Curriculum Guidelines project is to provide a set of concepts and example learning outcomes applicable to any undergraduate General Microbiology course. The documents are not meant to be a mandate nor an infringement upon academic freedom, but are curriculum recommendations. The documents for this project can be used both as a benchmark for instructors currently teaching undergraduate General Microbiology and a guide for instructors developing new courses.

The importance of evidence-based instructional practices

ASM’s Curriculum Guidelines were written to be used in conjunction with evidence-based instructional practices. Evidence-based instructional practices, such as student-centered classrooms, active learning, and backwards course design, are teaching practices that have been shown to be effective in student learning for long-lasting and deep understanding through scientific studies. 

Documents: Curriculum Guidelines & Learning Outcome Examples

The ASM Recommended Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology is a concept-based comprehensive curriculum for introductory microbiology courses. The guidelines identify six core concepts that provide a framework for 27 fundamental concept statements, 4 scientific thinking competencies, and 7 key skills. These statements, competencies, and skills were selected to promote deep understanding of concepts and skills that are deemed to be of lasting importance beyond the classroom and laboratory. The Curriculum Guidelines are broad enough to be applicable to any undergraduate General Microbiology course, including courses for microbiology majors and Allied Health courses.

 The ASM General Microbiology Learning Outcome Examples provides a bridge between the concept-based guidelines and the learning outcomes for any general microbiology course. This is a sample, not comprehensive, list of learning outcomes for undergraduate microbiology, and it includes both lower- and higher-order thinking skills. Please feel free to add to the list and write your own learning outcomes.


Community of Users 

NEW! Are you using ASM’s Recommended Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology and/or the Learning Outcome Examples? If so, we want to hear from you! We are forming a community of practitioners to share anecdotes and ideas about using the Curriculum Guidelines. This will help ASM find new ways to increase the number of educators using the Curriculum Guidelines and other evidence-based instructional practices. 

If you are interested in joining our community of practitioners, email


History and Next Steps

2010    ASM appointed the Task Force on Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology (Sue Merkel, Cornell University [chair]; Jackie Reynolds, Richland College [co-chair]; Kai “Billy” Hung, Eastern Illinois University; Amy Siegesmund, Pacific Lutheran University; Ann Smith, University of Maryland; and Heidi Smith, Front Range Community College) to revisit guidelines last updated in 2005. The task force made significant updates designed to align the guidelines with recommendations put forth in Vision and Change: A Call for Action in Undergraduate Biology Education (published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science).

2012    ASM published “The Development of Curricular Guidelines for Introductory Microbiology that Focus on Understanding” in its Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education (JMBE), chronicling the consensus-building approach used to develop the final guidelines. This approach seeks to create critical resources for, by, and with the educator community, including its microbiologist classroom teachers, research scientists, and department heads, along with publishers, policy makers, and funders.

2013    ASM put forth a document with example learning outcomes aligned with the 27 Fundamental Statements in ASM Curriculum Guidelines, Part I. This document offered recommendations from participants at the 2013 ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) with edits from the ASM Task Force on Learning Objectives for General Microbiology (Ann Stevens, Virginia Tech [chair]; Kai “Billy” Hung, Eastern Illinois University; Min-Ken Liao, Furman University; and Sue Merkel, Cornell University).

2014    At the 2014 ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators, participants were asked to identify assessments that align with the example learning outcomes and advance the ASM-recommended guidelines. These multiple-choice assessments were peer-reviewed and will be published in the forth-coming Student Learning Assessments in Microbiology Database (SLAMD).

2015    At the 2015 ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators, participants will learn how to make modifications in their course design to align with ASM’s Curriculum Guidelines and evidence-based instructional practices.