Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University College Dublin (2009) Proc Physiol Soc 15, PC71

Poster Communications

Final Year Undergraduate Teaching Projects Delivered via a Mobile Teaching Unit

L. K. Hughes1, K. Healey1, R. E. Hinton1, A. R. Lillie1, P. Rickard1, J. R. Harris1

1. Physiology & Pharmacology, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Final year projects that enable students to teach physiology to school age pupils develop communication skills that are of widespread value, especially for careers in education, medicine and communicating science to the general public. Since 2007, we have offered final year projects that allow students to develop an A-level teaching session that takes place inside a Mobile Teaching Unit (MTU), a custom-built HGV lorry that expands into a classroom. The benefits of this arrangement are that teaching can be delivered in a self-contained unit that does not require resources from the school and allows university-level physiological recording equipment to be easily transported and set up on the school site. Project students work in pairs and choose a physiological topic of interest that is relevant to their studies and maps onto the school curriculum. They then design a 1-hr teaching session using a combination of slides, videos, audioclips, demonstrations and practical activities undertaken by the school pupils. Each project culminates in the MTU visiting a local school, where the project students deliver the teaching session to different pupil groups throughout the school day. Each project must include experimental elements. These include collecting biometric data from the pupils, which the project students subsequently analyse and set within the context of relevant scientific literature. The undergraduates are also required to devise ways of quantitatively evaluating the teaching session in terms of pupils’ learning and enjoyment. Two teaching sessions, one each on the respiratory and nervous systems, have been developed and evaluated to date. School pupils were supervised by the undergraduates in generating data to investigate respectively the correlation between height and forced vital capacity (FVC) (Ljustina-Pribic et al, 2001) and between age and reaction times (Wilkinson & Allison, 1989) in 16-18 year olds. Subsequent analysis revealed a positive correlation between height and FVC (r=0.755; p<0.01; n=46; Pearson’s correlation) and a negative correlation between age and auditory reaction times (r= -0.443; p<0.001; n=66; Spearman’s rank correlation). Additional reaction time data presented as mean ± SEM demonstrated that auditory reaction times were faster than visual reaction times by 0.04 ± 0.007 s (n=66) p<0.001. Feedback collected from pupils and teachers demonstrates a high level of engagement in the MTU teaching sessions, with 91% of pupils stating that they enjoyed the sessions (n=111). School pupils also benefit academically, with 94% improving their scores in a physiology test delivered before and after the teaching session (n=119). The undergraduate students enjoy the challenge of designing, delivering and evaluating rigorous, ‘stand-alone’ teaching material in the MTU, and devising an appropriate related biometric research project.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements