Observing PECOP’s Impact at the 2015 Experimental Biology (EB) Meeting

The purpose of the physiology education community of practice (PECOP) is to build community support and collaborations and to create emergent opportunities that might not exist in our isolated silos of departments and institutions.  PECOP fellows and participants had a significant presence in the APS teaching section poster session at EB in Boston, with more than a dozen posters.  Several were authored by educators who participated in the APS-ITL (institute on teaching and learning) in Maine in June 2014. The APS teaching section reflects a growing community of physiology educators who are engaged in developing and applying student-centered learning practices, in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), and in physiology education research. Here, we highlight three posters that illustrate the impact of the APS-ITL and PECOP:

First, the APS-ITL catalyzed the formation of a new inter-institutional group and the comparative animal physiology core concept project (see Cliff et al. poster # 541.32 and Patricia Halpin’s PECOP blog post).  This group has formulated specific core concepts that are essential for student learning in animal physiology.

Second, attending the APS-ITL encouraged a PECOP fellow to attend and present at EB for the first time (poster # 687.23).  Trudy Witt followed up on her fascinating historical poster at the APS-ITL and came to her first EB meeting to share more information about the history of teaching using simulators.  From her poster, we were reminded that teaching with simulations is not new.  A French midwife in the 1700s invented an obstetric simulator and used it to teach midwifery to thousands of illiterate women.

Finally, another poster presented a different type of simulation.  Kerry Hull’s poster (#541.2) built on her poster at the APS-ITL. It described role-playing simulations that help students master complex physiological processes (negative feedback and ventilation). Kerry assessed student comments and exam performance and concluded that role-playing simulations in larger classes can benefit both participants and observers. She also argues that simulations are more effective when they are used in multiple classes so that students have a chance to revisit them, rather than being exposed only once.

These posters illustrate a few of the effects of this community of practice that were manifest at EB 2015:

  • bringing together new collaborative groups to create new tools and research projects;
  • broadening participation in the APS teaching section at EB by encouraging first-timers to present scholarly work;
  • enabling support and constructive feedback for physiology education research; and
  • providing opportunities for PECOP participants to meet and reconnect in person and continue conversations that began in Maine last year.

Did you reconnect with PECOP participants or fellows at the APS teaching poster sessions, symposia, dinner, or box lunch?  Please share your EB experiences in the comments.  We would also like others to share additional information about other posters you saw or presented in the comments to this blog.




Jenny L. McFarland is tenured faculty and former department chair in the Biology Department at the Edmonds Community College (EdCC) where she teaches human anatomy & physiology and introductory biology courses and conducts biology education research on student learning or core concepts in physiology. She received the EdCC Echelbarger-Sherman Exceptional Faculty Award in 2013. She is a PULSE (Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education) Leadership Fellow (selected 2012). As a PULSE fellow and a steering committee member on several NSF-funded projects, she advocates for excellence in undergraduate physiology, biology and STEM education at 2-year and 4-year institutions. She has served as a facilitator for the NW PULSE workshops to transform life science departments in the Pacific Northwest. Jenny earned her B.S. in Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Physiology & Biophysics and Physiological Psychology from the University of Washington in Seattle.




Robin McFarland teaches anatomy and physiology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. She earned her Ph.D. in physical (biological) anthropology from the University of Washington. Robin studies ape anatomy with her colleagues from University of California, Santa Cruz. She coauthored Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology with Ken Saladin.


One thought on “Observing PECOP’s Impact at the 2015 Experimental Biology (EB) Meeting”

I want to thank those that brought us all together last June 2014 for APS-ITL. It was a transformative meeting/event for me and has allowed me to develop a marvelous community of friends. Last academic year was especially difficult for me as I had 3 new preps in the fall and 2 reworked preps in the spring.
EB 2015 was, for a brief amount of time, rejuvenating. Not just because it is wonderful to see so many familiar faces in an ocean of unknown, but also because of the marvelous work that people are doing to inform their teaching and education practices. There are several people that I connected with again and look forward to continuing our conversations and collaborations.

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