Save the date! The Teaching Section of the American Physiological Society (APS) will host its fourth biennial APS Institute on Teaching and Learning (ITL) in 2020.
What is the ITL? You can learn more about the APS-ITL by watching this short video.
After much anticipation and intense negotiations the APS Meeting Office has completed arrangements to hold the 2020 APS-ITL at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus. Details about registration and lodging will be coming in September – we will be staying in Centennial Hall and either single or double dorm rooms will be available; most of the meals will be included with registration. Additional information will be posted on the APS website in November.
For a sneak peek of the venue, take a look at the award-winning McNamara Alumni Center. The Institute is scheduled from the evening of Monday, June 22, until lunchtime on Friday, June 26.
We are planning a pre-conference workshop/boot camp for new instructors.
Now that we have the venue, we are organizing the schedule and inviting plenary speakers and concurrent session leaders. Although we don’t have all the details yet, we can promise an exciting, relevant slate of activities. More details will be forthcoming as they are developed – for now, mark your calendars! We hope that you will join us at the 2020 ITL and help us grow the Physiology Education Community of Practice.
Beth Beason-Abmayr is a Teaching Professor of BioSciences at Rice University and a Faculty Fellow of the Rice Center for Teaching Excellence. She earned her B.S. in Microbiology from Auburn University and her Ph.D. in Physiology & Biophysics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She teaches multiple course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) as well as a student-centered course in comparative animal physiology. She is a co-PI on the Rice REU in Biomolecular Networks, PI of the Rice iGEM team and is a member of the iGEM Executive Judging Committee. As a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences (2012-2020), Beth is co-chair of the American Physiological Society – Institute of Teaching and Learning (APS-ITL) and is an Associate Editor for Advances in Physiology Education.
Joann May Chang, PhD Professor of Biology & Director for the Center for Instructional Excellence at Arizona Western College Yuma, Arizona
I recently attended a training on Open Educational Resources
(OER) and what it truly means to offer an OER course. What is an OER course? If you offer a course that uses an e-text
with other content found on the web to supplement without costing the student
any money, this would be defined as being free of costs and not truly an OER
course. Why? That leads to the key
question Matthew Bloom, OER Coordinator for Maricopa Community Colleges, posed
to our group during the training: “How do you feel about sharing with the
OER has become a prominent topic in higher education to save
students on textbook costs, but also a movement in building high quality
accessible teaching materials for educators without being tied to a publishing
company. In a 2017 blog post by Chris
Zook, he provided infographics of data associated with the increase in
textbook prices that have outpaced inflation, medical services, and even new
home costs. [attached graphic 1 & 2]
As Chris Zook also noted, community college students are two times more
likely to purchase textbooks with their financial aid than four-year college
students which increases their financial burden to complete their degree. When faculty build OER courses, they can
decrease this burden and share their course content with others who are working
towards giving equal access to higher education.
OER is at the forefront of Arizona Western College because
it is an integral part of our institution’s strategic planning goals to make
higher education more accessible for our student population where the average
yearly salary is only $38,237. We are
a year into this goal with our first formal OER training taking place in June
2019. When Matthew first asked us if we
share our teaching materials, most of us said “Sure! We share with our colleagues
often.” But then he followed that up
with “How willing are you to share your developed content with the world?” And that is the difference between a free
versus an OER course. If a faculty
member develops open course content and licenses it under the Creative Commons
License, the material can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and
redistributed (known as the 5R activities) by others. The creator of the open content can control
how their material is used with the different Creative Commons licenses.
[Creative Commons License gif] With the shared content, the OER movement aims
to provide quality teaching materials that can be used in an open creative and
collaborative manner while benefitting students in reducing textbook costs.
I did not realize the importance of Matthew’s question until
I started my search for OER content with Creative Commons Licensing for our OER
transitioning Anatomy and Physiology courses.
We will be using the OpenStax A & P textbook starting this Fall and
even though Matthew gave us some good starting points to search for open
resources that follow the 5R activities, it has been difficult finding pictures
and diagrams that can be used in lecture and activities. I have been able to find various posts to
labs, power point slides, videos, and open textbooks that can be used for
A&P. The most common issue is the
lack of quality science pictures or diagrams offered as open content, which I
have also heard is a problem from other colleagues transitioning to OER.
So, here’s my challenge question for you: Are you willing to
share your developed content, pictures, and diagrams with the world? If you are, please license them and share so
that you can be a part of this OER movement and others can also collaborate and
build that open content. Ultimately, this is about the ability to be inclusive
and provide quality higher education for our students without burdening them
with textbook costs.
If you are interested in this OER movement and are looking
for information or content, please check out the following resources:
This list is in no way inclusive. There are many other resources out there,
they just take time to find and to search through. I hope more of the scientific community takes
part in this OER movement and can provide more resources for everyone to use or
collaborate on. It truly makes a
difference to our students and their education.
Chang, Ph.D. is a Professor of Biology and the Director for the Center for
Instructional Excellence at Arizona Western College (AWC), a community college
in Yuma, Arizona. She currently manages
the professional development for AWC and teaches A&P and Introduction to
Engineering Design. When she’s not
teaching or directing, she is keeping up with her twin daughters, son, husband,
three cats and one dog. On her spare
time, she is baking delicious goodies for her friends and family.
Lisa Carney Anderson, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Unlike other disciplines who have a national society that manages undergraduate curriculum guidelines, Bachelor’s degree programs in Physiology, which largely serve pre-health students, do not. Therefore, a grassroots consortium of dedicated educators self-organized to support the development of curricular guidelines for physiology and related undergraduate programs worldwide. P-MIG’s mission is to enhance the success of physiology students/majors on a programmatic level. We are working to achieve this goal by collecting data from physiology faculty, physiology students, advisers and conference attendees and holding conferences for peer BS/BA programs in physiology and related fields. The goals are to share ideas and resources among programs, to develop and share tools for program evaluation, and ultimately to work toward curricular guidelines and support new program development.
Our group started with concerned
educators asking about physiology students who were not finding successful
careers after graduation. Beginning in
2012, these individuals started coming together, collecting data about
physiology programs and presenting their findings at physiology
conferences. Today we have a website (https://www.physiologymajors.org/), a list-serve of over 218
physiology educators, an NSF grant submitted (Wehrwein, Aquilar-Roca,
Crecelius, McFarland, Rogers) and have just held our 3rd annual
The Integrative Biology and
Physiology (IBP) Department at the University of Minnesota hosted the 3rd
Annual meeting of the P-MIG from June 18 -20th.
started on Tuesday evening, June 18, 2019 with a poster session on physiology
education including topics such as program organization, learning progression
of physiology concepts, active learning activities within physiology courses,
surveys of physiology curricula, surveys of physiology students and teaching interventions
for helping students.
Wednesday, June 19th, our group spent a full day engaging in
presentations and discussions. Dr.
Joseph Metzger, Chair of IBP, and Dr. Lisa Carney Anderson, Director of
Education in IBP, welcomed our 51 attendees to campus. Our conference consisted of representatives
of 17 states and 3 countries (USA, Canada and Portugal). 50% were new
attendees! The University of Minnesota has a state of the art active learning
classroom building which provided an innovative setting for our conference.
Wehrwein, P-MIG Director, set the scene by presenting the history of P-MIG and
gave an overview of the extensive data collection P-MIG members have done. Data
collection and analysis is an essential part of guiding the future actions of
Preparing Physiology students for a
Savett, Author of the Human Side of Medicine, gave a talk entitled Preparing physiology students for a
meaningful career: the role of the teacher/adviser. Dr. Savett pointed to the similarities
between the doctor-patient relationship and the teacher-student
relationship. Through stories and his
experience, he shared many pearls of wisdom about 1) developing a relationship
with advisees, 2) helping advisees see how school/work experiences are
transferable to many professions, 3) considering the past experience of the student
in tailoring advice, 4) listening without interrupting the listening, 5) looking at a situation from
different perspectives, 6) encouraging advisees to reflect on lessons learned,
7) recognizing that advisers can learn
from their students, 8) helping advisees to open up and finally 9) viewing academic
problems as a presenting complaint with differential diagnoses.
Good advising leads to good outcomes.
Crecelius & Dr. Patrick Crosswhite led a session on advising. First, good advising practices are supported
by professional organizations such as National Academic Advising Association
(NACASA) and National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions
(NAANP). Furthermore, useful data can be derived from online application
services and web resources such as http://explorehealthcareers.org/.
They also shared the perspective that career advice has to wait if
students are experiencing financial and health distress.
Crosswhite presented survey data from 31 institutions. Many advisors are working with a lot of
students, sometimes with very little training and experience. Student passivity
and scarce resources (time and money) exert challenges to advising. P-MIG could have an important role in
addressing advising gaps and barriers.
advising session, conference participants divided into discussion groups to
discuss advising programs of different sizes and types of advising offices
(centralized, de-centralized, informal).
The analysis of the discussions are ongoing.
Mindfulness and Physiology
Haramati, Professor in Integrative Physiology and Director of the Center for
Innovation and Leadership in Education (CENTILE; https://centile.georgetown.edu/) gave an inspiring talk entitled Managing stress in the curriculum and the
culture: the unique opportunity for physiologists. He presented the metaphor of a fish tank
filled with beautiful tropical fish. He
asked the group to imagine that half the fish were sick. Would we conclude there is something
intrinsically wrong with the fish or would we conclude there is something
extrinsically wrong with their environment?
We would think something is wrong with the tank! Why, then, do we not recognize that the
stress of our students is due to their environment rather than the students
are equipped to support the biological basis of mindfulness and stress
management, according to Dr. Haramati.
Stress activates the hypothalamic – pituitary – adrenal axis. With acute stress, the body returns to
baseline. With chronic stress or
multiple stressful events in succession, cortisol levels remain elevated and
then the individual is less able to mount a response over time. Mindfulness training is essential for
enabling individuals to return to baseline and developing resilience in the
face of stress. As faculty, we must
address mindfulness in the curriculum and model good stress management for the
sake of our work and the sake of our students.
Professional Skills Development is as
important as Teaching Physiology Content
skills working group has been developing and revising a list of skills that our
physiology graduates should hone during their undergraduate programs. From their work, a baccalaureate prepared
physiology major should be able to think critically, communicate effectively,
behave in a socially responsible manner and demonstrate laboratory proficiency. Dr. Michelle French, Dr. Julia Choate and Dr.
Randy Bryner crafted an inventory with several examples/descriptors of each
main category. The attendees broke into
small groups for discussion of the skills listed in the inventory.
the discussion centered on the following:
Mastery versus familiarity. There are some skills that we may expect our
students to master and other skills we would expect our students to be familiar
with. Mastery versus familiarity might
vary from program to program depending on the program goals and department
facilities. PMIG might suggest an
inventory of skills and departments could choose which are relevant, doable and
measurable for their program.
What kinds of lab skills?
Hands on data collection experience is important so that students can
understand the essentials of keeping a lab notebook, documenting their work,
measurement and error, and ethical interpretation of data. Is there a set of
lab skills our students need so they can be employed by academic or industry
Reading and analysis of the primary
literature. Should undergraduates be familiar with reading
primary literature whereas mastery would come in graduate school? What are ways we can hold our students
accountable when we assign primary literature readings?
We can directly measure student’s ability to write and evaluating data
by assigning projects in which they perform these skills. There are two aspects
of assessment: how students are performing in the classroom and the success of
the program in teaching professional skills.
There are validated tools that measure some of the “soft skills” such as
empathy, teamwork, and self-efficacy.
Attendees provided written feedback on the paper copies of skill inventories and the professional skill group will revise the inventory based on the feedback. P-MIG will invite feedback from recent graduates and disseminate the results in journals, faculty meetings and future conference presentations.
The Future of Physiology Panel
Rodrigues, Professor and Chair of
Human Physiology and Pathophysiology at Universidade Lusófona, led a
panel discussion with about 20 of the conference attendees (Chairs,
researchers, consultants and educators) regarding the future of physiology. Dr. Rodrigues is gathering data for a global
strategic plan for the discovery and dissemination of physiology knowledge. A list of panel questions can be found on the
P-MIG meeting site (https://www.physiologymajors.org/2019-info). We look forward to reports of his
research at future P-MIG meetings.
What are the Core Concepts, how
should we use and assess them?
Stanescu presented the history of the Core Concepts of Physiology. Physiology
core concepts were identified from surveys of physiology faculty at 2-year
colleges, 4-year colleges & universities and medical or other professional
schools. The development and unpacking
of core concepts has been published in Advances
in Physiology Education and captured in The Core Concepts of Physiology:
A new paradigm for teaching physiology by Michael, Cliff, McFarland, Modell,
and Wright. The core concepts include:
causality, cell-cell communication, cell membrane, cell theory, energy,
evolution, flow down gradients, genes to proteins, homeostasis,
interdependence, levels of organization, mass balance, physics/chemistry,
scientific reasoning and structure/function.
The physiology core concepts are not meant to define the science of
physiology, rather they are concepts to guide the 1) teaching of a physiology
course, 2) offering of a physiology curriculum or 3) learning by a physiology
student. Data collection from 6
physiology programs thus far suggest that different programs stress different
core concepts. The objective is not for
all programs to be the same; the objective is for there to be tools and
resources for programs to use core concepts in a way that makes sense to their
Concepts working group has been collecting data on the perceptions and use of
the core concepts through faculty, program, and student surveys. This group has developed a framework for
using the core concepts in national guidelines.
Dr. Chris Shaltry is developing and testing curricular mapping software
to identify gaps and content overlap; Dr. Shaltry presented his work via
videoconferencing. The goal is to better
understand our physiology programs and provide evidence that student
achievement can be tracked and compared to standards that align with course and
Dr. Jennifer Rogers presented data from the student survey. Several issues from the data stand out. First, 60% of student respondents have taken course work at community colleges; transferring coursework presents challenges in terms of assessing if and when students have met programmatic outcomes. Second, student respondents plan to engage in 3 or more experiential learning activities such as job shadowing, volunteering, internships, employment, research, service-based learning or study abroad experiences; P-MIG may be a resource for educating students and programs about experiential learning as students complete their degrees or take gap years. In this sample, 17 to 29% of the respondents report that they have mastered each of the core concepts, think they are important for their future careers and expect to remember the concepts in 5 years, though there was not a large difference between the core concepts. Of the 15 core concepts, homeostasis scores the highest, which is consistent with faculty and program rankings which also stress homeostasis.
Concepts working group is a larger group and discussions after the presentation
led to the proposal that the group be split into two subcommittees: one for
implementing core concept based teaching in the classroom and a second for
curricular mapping and assessment of the core concepts.
University of Minnesota Career
Readiness Team: A Model Curriculum for Teaching and Assessing Career Readiness
of Liberal Arts (CLA) at the University of Minnesota has 32 departments, 14000
undergraduate students and 69 majors.
CLA invested in a career readiness curriculum because the CLA faculty
want desirable graduates who can articulate the value of their degrees. The focus of the curriculum is to help
students translate their educational experience into a language that others,
particularly employers, can understand. Development of the curriculum is
explained in the U of MN’s curricular guide which can be found at the P-MIG
2019 meeting site.
and advisers use various levels of communication to tell students about career
readiness and explain the use of an online RATE tool (reflect, articulate,
translate, and evaluate). Students can
use online exercises to reflect upon their college experiences, articulate the
value of the experience, translate the experience to a professional skill, and
evaluate their own progress toward professional skill mastery. However, students need an incentive to use
the tool. Given that faculty have the most contact with students, use of the
RATE assessment activities and career readiness outcomes should be embedded in
course work. Currently the readiness team is working to help faculty and
departments integrate the career readiness tools and assessments into CLA
programs. Faculty can become Career
Readiness Teaching Fellows to help other faculty incorporate career readiness
into their programs.
WOW what a meeting!
together many groups and people. This conference allows us to talk about our
issues. The grassroots nature of P-MIG speaks to the need and desire for this
that often come up:
Are you forming a new society? No, our group cuts across already established societies such as The American Physiological Society (APS), Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology (ACDP), Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS), Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER), and others. We are not a competing society; we are simply a grassroots collective of undergraduate physiology educators creating a space for ideas and innovation.
Why don’t you join your meeting with another conference? We have given this a lot thought and discussion. Many of our educators may be teaching during the meeting time of other conferences. Those that attend other conferences may have students with them. It really feels right to us that we should find a time when our members can attend when their teaching loads are not as high and they are not supervising students. We are making a concerted effort to provide opportunities for teachers who may have limited travel funds. If our group reaches a consensus that joining another conference is the right thing to do, then we will join another conference.
How is P-MIG different than HAPS?One of our conference attendees who is a member of HAPS, said it best. “I love HAPS! When I want to learn about what is going on in the classroom, I go to HAPS. When I want to know what is happening on the program level, I look to P-MIG.”
Will you share your data? Yes! The data we have collected is freely available to anyone who asks by contacting Erica Wehrwein (email@example.com) or by visiting the website to listen to recordings of the presentations from all 3 conferences.
Come Join Us!
The 4th annual meeting will be held at the University of Oregon in Eugene Oregon, July 11-13, 2020. Opportunities abound!
Lisa Carney Anderson Biography
Lisa Carney Anderson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology at the University of Minnesota. She completed her doctoral training in muscle physiology at the University of Minnesota. She directs the first year medical physiology course. She also teaches nurse anesthesia students, dental students and undergraduates. She is the 2012 recipient of the Didactic Instructor of the Year Award from the American Association of Nurse Anesthesia. She co-authored a physiology workbook called Cells to Systems: Critical thinking exercises in Physiology, Kendall Hunt Press. Dr. Anderson’s teaching interests include encouraging active learning through retrieval and assessment of student reflection. She has joined the APS Teaching Section governance as Secretary.
Jessica L. Fry, PhD Associate Professor of Biology Curry College, Milton, MA
Ah Summer – the three months of the year when my To Do list
is an aspirational and idealistic mix of research progress, pedagogical
reading, curriculum planning, and getting ahead. Here we are in July, and between hiring, new
building construction, uncooperative experiments and familial obligations, I am
predictably behind, but my strategic scheduling of this blog as a book review–
meaning I have a deadline for both reading and digesting this book handed out
at our annual faculty retreat — means that I am guaranteed to get at least one
item crossed off my list!
My acceptance of (and planning for) my tendency to procrastinate is an example of the self-awareness Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill advocate for teachers in their book “Discussion as a Way of Teaching”. By planning for the major pitfalls of discussion, as well as the reasons behind why both teachers and students manage discussions poorly, they catalog numerous strategies to increase the odds of realizing the major benefits of discussion in the classroom. At fifteen years old, this book is hardly dated; some of the discussion formats will be familiar to practitioners of active learning such as snowballing and jigsaw, but the real value in this book for me was the frank discussion of the benefits, drawbacks, and misconceptions about discussion in the classroom that are directly relevant to my current teaching practice.
My lowest moments as a professor
seem to come when my students are more focused on “finding the right answer”
than on exploring a topic and fitting it into their conceptual
understanding. Paper discussions can
fall flat, with students hastily reciting sentences from the discussion or
results sections and any reading questions I may have assigned. This book firmly makes the case that with
proper groundwork and incentive, students can and will develop deliberative
conversational skills. Chapter 3
describes how the principles for discussion can be modeled during lecture,
small group work, and formats designed for students to practice the processes
of reflection and analysis before engaging in discussions themselves. Chapters
4 and 5 present the nuts and bolts of keeping a discussion going by describing
active listening techniques, teacher responses, and group formats that promote
rather than suppress discourse, and chapters 9 and 10 illustrate the ways
students and teachers talk too much… and too little. One of the most emphasized concepts in these
chapters and threaded throughout the book is allowing silence. Silence allows for reflection and should not
be feared – 26 pages in this book cover silence and importantly, how and why
professors and students are compelled to fill it, which can act as a barrier to
all students participating in the discussion.
Preskill and Brookfield emphasize
the need for all students to be active listeners and participants in a
discussion, even if they never speak a word, because discussion develops the
capacity for the clear communication of ideas and meaning. “Through conversation, students can learn to
think and speak metaphorically and to use analogical reasoning…. They can get
better at knowing when using specialized terminology is justified and when it
is just intellectual posturing” (pg. 32).
What follows is an incredibly powerful discussion on not only honoring
and respecting diversity, but a concise well-written explanation of how
perceptions of social class and race affect both non-white and non-middle-class
students in American college classrooms.
Their explanation of how academia privileges certain patterns of
discourse and speech that are not common to all students leading to feelings of
impostership should be read by everyone who has ever tone-policed a student or
a colleague. The authors advocate for a
democratic approach to speech, allowing students to anonymously report if, for
example, another student banging their hand on their desk to emphasize a point
seemed too violent, which then allows the group to discuss and if necessary,
change the group rules in response to that incident. The authors note that “A discussion of what
constitutes appropriate academic speech is not lightweight or idle. It cuts to several core issues: how we
privilege certain ways of speaking and conveying knowledge and ideas, who has
the power to define appropriate forms and patterns of communication, and whose
interests these forms and patterns serve” (pg 146). The idea that academic language can be
gatekeeping and alienating to many students is especially important in
discussions surrounding retention and persistence in the sciences, where
students seeing themselves as scientists is critical (Perez et al. 2014). Brookfield and Preskill argue that through
consistent participation in discussion, students will see themselves as
co-creators of knowledge and bring their authentic selves to the
All in all, this book left me
inspired and I recommend it for those who imagine the kinds of invigorating
discussions we have with colleagues taking place with our students and want to
increase the chances it will happen in the classroom. I want to cut out quotes from my favorite
paper’s discussion section and have my students justify or refute the
statements made using information from the rest of the paper (pg. 72-73 Getting
Discussion Started). I want my students to
reflect on their journey to science and use social media to see themselves
reflected in the scientific community (pg. 159-160 Discussing Across Gender
Differences), and I want to lay the groundwork for the first discussion I have
planned for the class of 2023; Is Water Wet?
All this and the rest of that pesky To Do list with my remaining month
of summer. Wish me luck!
Brookfield, S. D., & Preskill,
S. (2005). Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for
Democratic Classrooms (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
T., Cromley, J. G., & Kaplan, A. (2014). The role of identity development,
values, and costs in college STEM retention. Journal of Educational
L. Fry Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Biology at Curry College, a
liberal-arts based primarily undergraduate institution in Milton,
Massachusetts. She currently teaches
Advanced Physiology, Cell Biology, and Introduction to Molecules and Cells for
majors, and How to Get Away with Murder which is a Junior Year
Interdisciplinary Course in the General Education Program. She procrastinates by training her dog,
having great discussions with her colleagues, and reading copious amounts of
Monica J. McCullough, PhD Western Michigan University, Department of Biological Sciences
After attending the 2018 APS – ITL conference for the first time,
I walked away with so many actionable ideas to implement in my large classes.
One valuable experience was practicing active learning techniques as part of a
session. “Doing” helps many to learn much more than “hearing” about best practices.
I not only learned much from the active sessions offered at APS-ITL but
transferred that experience into my own classroom upon returning.
I decided to try a semester-long project for my Intro to Bio for
majors, modifying a project I learned about from Dr. Beth Beason-Abmayr (http://advan.physiology.org/content/41/2/239) from
Rice University. Dr. Beason-Abmayr introduced ‘The Fictitious Animal
Project’ during her session at APS-ITL as one she uses in her Vertebrate
Physiology for non-bio majors, averaging around 30 students per semester.
During her session at APS-ITL, we divided into groups, ranging from 2-10,
and mimicked the project. I instantly saw the value of this activity and had to
add it to my teaching repertoire. Dr.
Beason-Abmayr’s project was to create a fictitious animal that had certain
physiological characteristics. Students had categories, such as cardiovascular
system, respiratory system, that were randomly selected and answer sets of
questions that students would answer about the integration of them, including
benefits and trade-offs for the fictitious animal. They completed
scheduled homework sets after topics were discussed in class. The students
worked in groups and would present their creations to the class with drawings
of their animals. What really piqued my interest was that since students had to
create an animal that does not exist in nature, they couldn’t just Google it to
create this project, and the potential to bring out their ingenuity to the
Since I was going to teach biological form and function the
upcoming Fall, and mind you for the first time, I thought I’d start with this
semester-long project for 290 students, which were primarily freshmen. A major
component that I wanted to maintain was the student presentations, as this is
an important skill for these budding scientists. Obviously, the logistics to
maintain this was the first decision, and when factoring in around 75 groups (averaging
4 students per group), I decided that the group presentations would span a
total of 4 days at the end of the semester, in a gallery-style presentation.
Presenters would line the room with their visual aid and the rest of the class
would visit each group with designated rubrics. (Presentation
Rubric) Additionally, the individual group members would submit a peer
evaluation of their group mates at the end of the day of their presentation. (Group
Peer Evaluation). My next modification was to adapt the category options so that
the students would create a species that yielded both plant and animal
components, as we would be learning about both. There were 5 overall
anatomical/physiological categories, including size, circulation, sensory
environmental interaction, structure and motility. These
too would be randomized with the use of Google by “rolling the dice” to assign
each characteristic. (Project
directions) I continued with Dr. Beason-Abmayr’s project checkpoint of
homework sets throughout the semester where students work on a subset of the
categories and continue to build their species, as we learn about the topics in
class. Each group submitted electronically to Dropbox, and allow time for
feedback with rubrics. (HW set
1 rubric example) To end, there was a final wrap-around short answer portion on
the final exam where students described each category and how it was
incorporated with their own species. This allowed
me to check for individual understanding of the project as we all know some
group projects allow for ‘moochers’ to do and understand little.
For me, this project is a keeper. It helped reinforce the
essential concepts during the semester and practice soft skills needed to excel
in the workforce. It was exciting to see how some students really embraced the
project, including creating a costume of their species, 3-D print outs, live
plants they’ve modified and sculptures. While difficult, there were also some
group conflicts that did occur, yet, these emerging adults were able to work
through their differences. A key factor to this was each group developing their
own contract at the very beginning of the semester and was open for adjustments
for the duration of the semester. (Team
Contract) The big take-away for me is, it is worth the risk to try
something new in the classroom, no matter how large or small the size. This
project helped student gains with the material, and practice throughout the
semester. As an educator, I feel it is pivotal to find ways that help our
students feel confident with the material and keep them curious and innovative.
Just as at the top presentations at our conference, doing
science makes concepts stick much more than just hearing about it.
J. McCullough, PhD joined as a Faculty Specialist in the Department of
Biological Sciences and Western Michigan University in 2016, prior to which she
was faculty at Adrian College. She currently teaches large introductory
courses, including Anatomy, Physiology and Biological Form and Function. Dr.
McCullough received her BS and PhD from Western Michigan University and studied
regulation of neurotrophic factors. Dr. McCullough has 4 young children and has
found a great interest in doing science demo’s in her elementary children’s’
Jaclyn E. Welles Cell & Molecular Physiology PhD Candidate Pennsylvania State University – College of Medicine
Literacy in the World Today: According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are approximately 250 million individuals worldwide, who cannot read, write, or do basic math, despite having been in school for a number of years (5, 8). In fact, UNESCO, is calling this unfortunate situation a “Global Learning Crisis” (7). The fact that a significant number of people are lacking in these fundamental life skills regardless of attending school, shows that part of the problem lies within how students are being taught.
Learning and Teaching Styles: It was due to an early exposure to various education systems that I was able to learn of that there were two main styles of teaching – Learner-centered teaching, and Teacher-centered teaching (2). Even more fascinating, with the different styles of teaching, it has become very clear that there are also various types of learners in any given classroom or lecture setting (2, 6, 10). Surprisingly however, despite the fact that many learners had their own learning “modularity” or learning-style, instructors oftentimes taught their students in a fixed-manner, unwilling or unable to adapt or implement changes to their curriculum. In fact, learner-centered teaching models such as the “VARK/VAK – Visual Learners, Auditory Learners and Kinesthetic Learners”, model by Fleming and Mills created in 1992 (6), was primarily established due to the emerging evidence that learners were versatile in nature.
What We Can Do to Improve Learning: The fundamental truth is that when a student is unable to get what they need to learn efficiently, factors such as “learning curves” – which may actually be skewing the evidence that students are struggling to learn the content, need to be implemented (1, 3). Instead of masking student learning difficulties with curves and extra-credit, we can take a few simple steps during lesson-planning, or prior to teaching new content, to gauge what methods will result in the best natural overall retention and comprehension by students (4, 9). Some of methods with evidence include (2, 9):
Concept Maps – Students Breakdown the Structure or Organization of a Concept
Concept Inventories – Short Answer Questions Specific to a Concept
Self-Assessments – Short Answer/Multiple Choice Questions
Inquiry-Based Projects – Students Investigate Concept in a Hands-On Project
All in all, by combining both previously established teaching methodologies with some of these newer, simple methods of gauging your students’ baseline knowledge and making the necessary adjustments to teaching methods to fit the needs of a given student population or class, you may find that a significant portion of the difficulties that can occur with students and learning such as – poor comprehension, retention, and engagement, can be eliminated (4, 9) .
Jaclyn Welles is a PhD student in Cellular and Molecular Physiology at the Pennsylvania State University – College of Medicine. She has received many awards and accolades on her work so far promoting outreach in science and education, including the 2019 Student Educator Award from PSCoM.
Her thesis work in the
lab of Scot Kimball, focuses on liver physiology and nutrition; mainly how
nutrients in our diet, can play a role in influencing mRNA
translation in the liver.
Student evaluation of teaching (SET) has been utilized and
studied for over 100 years. Originally, SET was designed by faculty to gather
information from students in order to improve personal teaching methods (Remmers
and Guthrie, 1927). Over time, SET became increasingly common. Reports in the
literature indicate 29% of institutions of higher education employed this
resource in 1973, 68% in 1983, 86% in
1993, and 94.2% in 2010 (Seldin, 1993).
Today, SET is employed almost universally, and has become a
routine task for both faculty and students. While deployment of this instrument
has increased, impact with faculty has declined. A study published in 2002
indicated only 2-10% of instructors reported major teaching changes based on
SET (Nasser & Fresko, 2002). However, results of SET has become
increasingly important in making impactful faculty decisions including
promotion and tenure, merit pay, and awards. A study by Miller and Seldin
(2010), reported that 99.3% Deans use SET in evaluating their faculty (Miller
& Seldin, 2014)
The literature offers a rich discussion of issues related to
SET including bias, validity, reliability, and accuracy. Although discussions
raise concern for current use of SET, institutions continue to rely on SET for
multiple purposes. As a consequence, it has become increasingly important that
students offer feedback that is informative, actionable, and professional. It
would also be helpful to raise student awareness of the scope, implications,
and potential impact of SET results.
To that end, I offer the following suggestions for helping
students become motivated and effective evaluators of faculty:
Inform students of changes made based on evaluations from last semester/year
Share information concerning potential bias (age, primary language, perception of grading leniency, etc.)
Inform of full use including departmental and campus wide (administrative decisions, awards, P & T, etc,)
Establish a standard of faculty performance for each rating on the Likert scale (in some cases a 3 may be the more desirable indicator)
Inform students of professionalism, and the development of professional identity. Ask students to write only what they would share in face-to-face conversation.
Ask students to exercise caution and discrimination – avoid discussing factors out of faculty control (class size, time offered, required exams, classroom setting, etc.)
If indicating a faculty behavior is unsatisfactory – offer specific reasons
When writing that a faculty member display positive attributes – be sure to include written comments of factual items, not just perceptions and personal feelings
Give students examples of USEFUL and NOT USEFUL feedback
Distinguish between ‘anonymous’ and ‘blinded’ based on your school’s policy
Although technology has made the administration of SET nearly
invisible to faculty, it is perhaps time for faculty to re-connect with the
original purpose. It is also appropriate for faculty to be involved in the
process of developing SET instruments, and screening questions posed to their
students. Additionally, it is our responsibility to help students develop
proficiency in offering effective evaluation. Faculty have the opportunity, and
perhaps a responsibility, to determine the usefulness and impact of SET for the
next 100 years.
Please share your ideas about how we might return to the original purpose of SET – to inform our teaching. I would also encourage you to share instructions you give your students just prior to administering SET.
Mari K. Hopper, PhD, is currently the Associate Dean for
Biomedical Sciences at Sam Houston State University Proposed College of
Osteopathic Medicine. She received her Ph.D. in Physiology from Kansas State
University. She was trained as a physiologist with special interest in maximum
capabilities of the cardiorespiratory and muscular systems. Throughout her
academic career she has found immense gratification in working with students in
the classroom, the research laboratory, and in community service positions. Dr
Hopper has consistently used the scholarly approach in her teaching, and earned
tenure and multiple awards as a result of her contributions in the area of
scholarship of teaching and learning. She has focused on curriculum development
and creating curricular materials that challenge adult learners while engaging
students to evaluate, synthesize, and apply difficult concepts. At SHSU she
will lead the development of the basic science curriculum for the first two
years of medical school. Dr Hopper is very active in professional organizations
and currently serves as the Chapter Advisory Council Chair for the American
Physiological Society, the HAPS Conference Site Selection Committee, and
Past-President of the Indiana Physiological Society. Dr Hopper has four grown
children and a husband David who is a research scientist.
Ah, the summer season has begun! I
love this time of year, yes for the sun and the beach and baseball games and
long, lazy summer reading, but also because it gets me thinking about new
beginnings. I’ve always operated on a school-year calendar mindset, so if
you’re like me, you’re probably reflecting on the successes and shortcomings of
the past year, preparing for the upcoming fall semester, or maybe even
launching into a new summer semester now. As campuses become more diverse,
fostering an inclusive learning environment becomes increasingly important, yet
the prospect of how to do so can be daunting. So where to start?
First, recognize that there is not just one
way to create an inclusive
classroom. Often, the most effective tactics you use
may be discipline-, regional-, campus-, or classroom-specific. Inclusive
teaching is a student-oriented mindset, a way of thinking that challenges you
to maximize opportunities for all students to connect with you, the course
material, and each other.
Second, being proactive before a
semester begins can save you a lot of time, headaches, and conflict down the
road. Set aside some dedicated time to critically evaluate your course
structure, curriculum, assignments, and language choices before ever
interacting with your students. Consider which voices, perspectives, and
examples are prominent in your class materials, and ask yourself which ones are
missing and why. Try to diversify the mode of content representation (lectures,
videos, readings, discussions, hands-on activities, etc.) and/or assessments
types (verbal vs. diagrammed, written vs. spoken, group vs. individual, online
vs. in-class, etc.). Recognize the limits of your own culture-bound
assumptions, and, if possible, ask for feedback from a colleague whose
background differs from your own.
Third, know that you don’t have to
change everything all at once. If you are developing an entirely new
course/preparation, you’ll have less time to commit to these endeavors than you
might for a course you’ve taught a few times already. Recognize that
incremental steps in the right direction are better than completely
overwhelming yourself and your students to the point of ineffectiveness (Trust
me, I’ve tried and it isn’t pretty!)
Below, I have included some practical
ways to make a classroom more inclusive, but this list is far from
comprehensive. As always, feedback is much appreciated!
Part 1: Course Structure and Student Feedback
These strategies require the largest
time commitment to design and implement, but they are well worth the effort.
opportunities for collaborative learning in the classroom. Active learning activities can better engage
diverse students, and this promotes inclusivity by allowing students from
diverse backgrounds to interact with one another. Furthermore, heterogeneous
groups are usually better
problem-solvers than homogeneous ones.
variety of learning activity types in order to reach different kinds of
learners. Use poll questions,
case studies, think-pair-share, jigsaws, hands-on activities, oral and written assignments, etc.
texts/readings whose language is gender-neutral or stereotype-free, and if you
run across a problem after the fact, point out the text’s shortcomings in class
and give students the opportunity to discuss it.
Promote a growth
mindset. The language you use in the classroom can have a surprising impact on
student success, even when you try to be encouraging. How many of us have said
to our students before a test, “You all are so smart. I know you can do this!”?
It sounds innocent enough, but this language conveys that “being smart” determines
success rather than hard work. Students with this fixed mindset are more likely
to give up when confronted with a challenge because they don’t think they are
smart/good/talented enough to succeed. Therefore, when we encourage our
students before an assessment or give them feedback afterwards, we must always
address their effort and their work, rather than assigning attributes (positive
or negative) to them as people.
Convey the same
level of confidence in the abilities of all your students. Set high
expectations that you believe all students can achieve, emphasizing the
importance of hard work and effort. Perhaps the biggest challenge is
maintaining high expectations for every student, even those who have performed
poorly in the past. However, assuming
a student just can’t cut it based on one low exam grade may be as damaging as
assuming a student isn’t fit due to their race, gender, background, etc.
Be evenhanded in
praising your students. Don’t go overboard as it makes students feel like you
don’t expect it of them.
Part 2: Combating Implicit Bias
Every one of us harbors biases,
including implicit biases that form outside of our conscious awareness. In some
cases, our implicit biases may even run counter to our conscious values. This
matters in the classroom because implicit bias can trigger self-fulfilling
prophecies by changing stereotyped groups’ behaviors to conform to stereotypes,
even when the stereotype was initially untrue. Attempting to suppress our
biases is likely to be counterproductive, so we must employ other strategies to
ensure fairness to all our students.
Become aware of
your own biases, by assessing them with tools like the Harvard Implicit
Association Test (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html) or by self-reflection. Ask yourself: Do I
interact with men and women in ways that create double standards? Do I assume
that members of one group will need extra help in the classroom – or
alternatively, that they will outperform others? Do I undervalue comments made
by individuals with a different accent than my own?
cultures different than your own. Read authors with diverse backgrounds.
Express a genuine interest in other cultural traditions. Exposure to different
groups increases your empathy towards them.
Take extra care
to evaluate students on individual bases rather than social categorization /
group membership. Issues related to group identity may be especially enhanced
on college campuses because this is often the first time for students to affirm
their identity and/or join single-identity organizations / groups.
complexity of diversity. No person has just one identity. We all belong to
multiple groups, and differences within groups may be as great as those across
interactions in the classroom between different social groups. Even if you
choose to let students form their own groups in class, mix it up with jigsaw
activities, for example.
examples in your lectures, case studies, and exams.
grading practices, such as clearly-defined rubrics, anonymous grading, grading
question by question instead of student by student, and utilize activities with
some group points and some individual points.
Part 3: Day-to-Day Classroom Culture
These suggestions fall under the
“biggest bang for your buck” category. They don’t require much time to
implement, but they can go a long way to making your students feel more welcome
in your classroom.
images, names, examples, analogies, perspectives, and cultural references in
your teaching. Keep this in mind when you choose pictures/cartoons for your
lectures, prepare in-class or take-home activities, and write quiz/test
questions. Ask yourself if the examples you are using are only familiar or
relevant to someone with your background. If so, challenge yourself to make it
accessible to a wider audience.
Pay attention to
your terminology and be willing to adjust based on new information. This may be
country-, region-, or campus-specific,
and it may change over time (e.g. “minority” vs. “historically
underrepresented”). When in doubt, be more specific rather
than less (e.g. “Korean” instead of
“Asian”; “Navajo” instead of “Native American”).
Use inclusive and
non-gendered language whenever possible (e.g. “significant other/partner”
instead of “boyfriend/husband,” “chairperson” instead of “chairman,”
“parenting” instead of “mothering”).
Make a concerted
effort to learn your students’ names AND pronunciations. Even if it takes you a
few tries, it is a meaningful way to show your students you care about them as
important historical and current contributions to your field made by
scientists belonging to underrepresented groups.
Limit barriers to
learning. You will likely have a list of your own, but here are a few I’ve
materials before class so that students can take notes on them during class.
Use a microphone
to make sure all students can hear you clearly.
Dyslexie font on your slides to make it easier for dyslexic students to read
Speak slowly and
limit your use of contractions so that non-native-English speakers can
understand you more easily.
points on the board that remain there for the whole class period, including the
main points for that lecture, important dates coming up, and key assignments.
Be sensitive to
students whose first language is not English and don’t punish them unnecessarily
for misusing idioms.
As a final parting message, always try
to be mindful of your students’ needs, but know that you don’t have everything
figured out at the outset. Make time to reevaluate your approach, class
materials, and activities to see
where improvements can be made. Challenge yourself to continually improve and
hone better practices. Listen to your students, and be mindful with the
feedback you ask them to give you in mid-semester and/or course evaluations.
For more information, I recommend the
Davis, BG. “Diversity and Inclusion in the
Classroom.” Tools for Teaching (2nd Ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
A Wiley Imprint. p 57 – 71. Print.
Weise Cross is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Millersville University,
beginning in the fall of 2019, where she will be teaching courses in
Introductory Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, and Nutrition. Laura received a
B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. in Molecular and
Cellular Pathology from the University of North Carolina. She recently
completed her post-doctoral training in the Department of Cell Biology &
Physiology at the University of New Mexico, where she studied the molecular
mechanisms of hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension. Laura’s research is
especially focused on how hypoxia leads to structural remodeling of the
pulmonary vessel wall, which is characterized by excessive vascular smooth
muscle cell proliferation and migration. She looks forward to engaging
undergraduate students in these projects in her new research lab.
It’s been an interesting little journey. I haven’t exactly “gone viral” — I haven’t been adding hundreds of new Twitter followers, or anything like that — but even this mild uptick in interest has prompted me to ponder my relationship with the news media. In short, I do enjoy the attention, but I also feel some responsibility to influence the tone and emphases of these stories. In this post, I share a few bits of advice based on my recent experiences, and I invite others to contribute their own tips in the comments section.
(1) Find out how your school/department/committee views media appearances. In April, I was invited to appear on KING’s mid-morning talk show, which sounded cool, except that the show would be taped during my normal Thursday physiology lecture! My department chair and my dean encouraged me to do the show, noting that this sort of media exposure is generally good for the school, and so, with their blessing, I got a sub and headed for the studio.
(2) Respect students’ privacy during classroom visits. After some students were included in a classroom-visit video despite promises to the contrary, I realized that I needed to protect their privacy more strongly. I subsequently established an option by which any camera-shy students could live-stream the lecture until the TV crew left.
(3) Anticipate and explicitly address potential misconceptions about what you’re doing. I’ve worried that these “singing professor” pieces might portray the students simply as amused audience members rather than as active participants, so, during the classroom visits, I’ve used songs that are conducive to the students singing along and/or analyzing the meaning of the lyrics. (Well, mostly. “Cross-Bridges Over Troubled Water” wasn’t that great for either, but I had already sung “Myofibrils” for KING, and KOMO deserved an exclusive too, right?)
(4) Take advantage of your institution’s public relations expertise. Everett Community College’s director of public relations offered to help me rehearse for the talk show — and boy am I glad that she did! Being familiar with the conventions and expectations of TV conversations, Katherine helped me talk much more pithily than I normally do. In taking multiple cracks at her practice question about “how did you get started [using music in teaching]?” I eventually pared a meandering 90-second draft answer down to 30 seconds. She also asked me a practice question to which my normal response would be, “Can you clarify what you mean by X?” — and convinced me that in a 4-minute TV conversation, you don’t ask for clarifications, you just make reasonable assumptions and plow ahead with your answers.
(5) Ask your interviewers what they will want to talk about. Like a novice debater, I struggle with extemporaneous speaking; the more I can prepare for specific questions, the better. Fortunately, my interviewers have been happy to give me a heads-up about possible questions, thus increasing their chances of getting compelling and focused answers.
Readers, what other advice would you add to the above?
Gregory J. Crowther, PhD has a BA in Biology from Williams College, a MA in Science Education from Western Governors University, and a PhD in Physiology & Biophysics from the University of Washington. He teaches anatomy and physiology in the Department of Life Sciences at Everett Community College. His peer-reviewed journal articles on enhancing learning with content-rich music have collectively been cited over 100 times.
I always had this curiosity about life. Since the very beginning, always wanting to understand how animals’ breathe, how they live, how they move. All that was living was very interesting. – Dr. Ibarra
“I always had this curiosity about life and I wanted to
become a doctor, but my parent told me it was not a good idea,” Lise
Bankir explained in her interview for the Living
History Project of the American Physiological Society (APS). The video interview (video length: 37.14
min.) is part of a rich collection over 100 senior members of the APS who have
made outstanding contributions to the science of physiology and the
The archive gives us great insight into how these scientists
chose their fields of study. As Dr.
Bankir, an accomplished renal physiologist, explain how she ended up “studying
the consequences of vasopressin on the kidney.”
She describes her work in a 1984 paper realizing “high protein was
deleterious for the kidney, because it induces hyperfiltration,” which of
course now we accept that high protein accelerates the progression of kidney
disease. Later she describes her Aha! moment, linking a high protein diet to
urea concentration, while on holiday.
“It came to my mind that this adverse effect of high protein
diet was due to the fact that the kidney not only to excrete urea (which is the
end product of proteins), but also to concentrate urea in the urine. Because the plasma level of urea is already
really low and the daily load of urea that humans excrete need that urea be
concentrated about 100-fold (in the urine with respect to plasma).”
Other interviews highlight how far ahead of their time other
scientists were. As is the case when it
comes to being way ahead of teaching innovations and active learning in
physiology with Dr. Beverly
Bishop. In her video interview, you
can take inspiration from her 50 years of teaching neurophysiology to physical
therapy and dental students at SUNY in New York (video length: 1 hr. 06.09
min.). Learn about how she met her
husband, how she started her career, and her time in Scotland. Dr. Bishop believed students could learn
better with experimental laboratory activities and years ahead of YouTube, she
developed a series of “Illustrated Lectures in Neurophysiology” available
through APS to help faculty worldwide.
She was even way ahead of others in the field of
neurophysiology. Dr. Bishop explains, “everyone
knows that they (expiratory muscles) are not very active when you are sitting
around breathing quietly, and yet the minute you have to increase ventilation
(for whatever reason), the abdominal muscles have to play a part to have active
expiration. So, the question I had to
answer was, “How are those muscles smart enough to know enough to turn on?” Her
work led to ground breaking work in neural control of the respiratory muscles,
neural plasticity, jaw movements, and masticatory muscle activity.
Another interview shed light on a successful career of
discovery and their implications to understanding disease, as is the case with
the video interview of Dr. Judith S.
Bond. She describes the discovery of meprins proteases as her most
significant contribution to science (video length: 37.38 min.), “and as you
know, both in terms of kidney disease and intestinal disease, we have found
very specific functions of the protease.
And uh, one of the functions, in terms of the intestinal disease relates
to uh inflammatory bowel disease. One of
the subunits, meprin, alpha subunit, is a candidate gene for IBD and
particularly ulcerative colitis. And so that opens up a window to – that might
have significance to the treatment of ulcerative colitis.”
Or perhaps you may want to know about the life and research
Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen, the first woman president of the APS (video length:
1 hr. 18.07 min.) and daughter of August and Marie Krogh. In her interview, she describes her
transition from dentistry to field work to study water balance on desert
animals and how she took her family in a van to the Arizona desert and while
pregnant developed a desert laboratory and measured water loss in kangaroo
rats. Dr. Schmidt-Nielsen was attracted
to the early discoveries she made in desert animals, namely that these animals
had specific adaptations to reduce their expenditure of water to an absolute
minimum to survive.
As the 15th anniversary of the project
approaches, we celebrate the life, contributions, dedication, ingenuity, and
passion for science shared by this distinguished group of physiologists. It is my hope you find inspiration, renewed
interest, and feed your curiosity for science by taking the time to watch a few
of these video interviews.
Dr. Jessica M. Ibarra is an Assistant Professor of Physiology at Dell Medical School in the Department of Medical Education of The University of Texas at Austin. She teaches physiology to first year medical students. She earned her B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Subsequently, she pursued her Ph.D. studies at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio where she also completed a postdoctoral fellowship. Her research studies explored cardiac extracellular matrix remodeling and inflammatory factors involved in chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. When she is not teaching, she inspires students to be curious about science during Physiology Understanding Week in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of scientists and physicians. Dr. Ibarra is a native of San Antonio and is married to Armando Ibarra. Together they are the proud parents of three adult children – Ryan, Brianna, and Christian Ibarra.