2007 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., April 24, 2007
HUB West Ballroom

Session Description


Using General Models can Enhance Student Understanding in Physiology

Kate Henson and Mary Pat Wenderoth - Biology


Students often compartmentalize their knowledge and therefore fail to recognize the principles that are common between topics. General models in physiology provide a way of making the common physiological patterns explicit to students. General models are teaching models that represent accepted scientific models in physiology. We predict that by introducing the students to the concepts of general models at the beginning of the course, they could use the general models to form robust mental models that can be used to explain, predict and apply to physiological problems. We introduced four of the seven general models: Flux, Mass Balance, Mass Action and Control Systems. On all exams, students were told to specifically identify the general model when relevant to solving an exam question. We analyzed student exams for their use of GM and the quality ( points scored) of their answers. We found that students who correctly identified and used the GM earned significantly more points on the question. We also analyzed student’s qualitative answers to questions about the usefulness of general models. We found that students who correctly used GM in exam answers also had the most sophisticated understanding of the usefulness of General Models for their explanatory and predictive powers and their transferable nature. We believe that using GM as a teaching tool enhances student understanding in physiology and we are currently exploring additional strategies to help students use them more effectively.



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