education, immunology, microbiology, PEDAGOGY, science, teaching, University of Sussex

Short Burst Activities in Lectures Part 1. Herd Immunity

Short Burst Activities – Introduction.

My teaching philosophy is that the most effective teaching fosters an active participation in learning and in my roles as a University professor and as a leader of outreach activities I consider myself primarily as a learning facilitator.

A worked example makes it easier for others to understand how readily this can be achieved and so I am compiling a series of ‘how to’ guides for ‘Short Burst Activities’ within lecture theatre teaching teaching of Bio-Sciences. Some are very specific but others could be readily adapted to other topics.

I would be greatful for feedback and if you would like me to add your activities to the blog, or add a link to them please contact me.

Part 1. Herd Immunity

Learning Objectives: to illustrate the value of herd immunity (year 1 BSc)


In advance bring a method of identifying a set of students eg napkin on head.

  • Give a set (approx half the class) of napkins to some students in middle of the front row
  • Instructions are to take one and pass backwards (2 minutes)
  • If available give a toy to two students on left hand side to represent vunerable people
  • Set an infection going in one corner of the class (right hand corner in illustration)
  • Instructions are to stand up when infected and to pass the infection by shaking hands with anyone you can reach easily
  • After a couple of minutes you will see that the majority on the right hand side are infected and none on left hand side are
  • If your lecture/teaching space is not full then the immunization will be patchier and the results less clear (as in life)
  • Watch the spread of infection and pause transmission at an early stage to illustrate some herd protection then let it continue to show a poor outcome
  • Then either cluster the students together to re-run or show the diagram of the outcome with good coverage

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