Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Manchester (2010) Proc Physiol Soc 19, PC82

Poster Communications

Introducing Active Learning in Human Physiology Tutorials to First Year Undergraduates

W. E. Leadbeater1

1. Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


The human physiology module is a requirement for first year Material Science undergraduates in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, at the University of Birmingham. Material science students can become preoccupied with the engineering behind biomedical devices rather than the physiological relationship to these devices. Evidence shows that students may not sufficiently consider the physiological relevance of what they are engineering. For this reason, teaching physiology to non-physiology students presents a challenge. Tutorial observations showed a lack of student participation, which is a known success inhibitor for tutorial groups (DeGrave, 2001, 2002). Evidence supports that students learn more when involved in active learning (Cross, 1987, Forsyth et al., 1995, Crosby, 1997). Therefore, in the next academic year, active enquiry based-learning during tutorial sessions was introduced. The tutorials offered a variety of activities to provide the students with multiple learning experiences and opportunities to engage and peer learn by working in small groups. The activities included a quiz, completion of tables and diagrams, short answer questions and multiple-choice questions. The students productively engaged in the sessions. Peer observation of teaching was invited and confirmed the level of activity promoted group discussion and peer learning. Student engagement with in the tutorials correlated to a higher average grade in an associated in-course assessment with an average mark of 77%±9 (n=14) compared to those students who did not attend 57%±8 (n=4). The students completed feedback questionnaires and responses concurred with the lecturer and observers’ experience. Further investigation is required to address the multiple variables that exist in the study. These need consideration when assessing the impact of tutorial changes on the student experience. Variables include; group dynamics, differing lecturers and tutorial scheduling. The process of peer observation and student feedback has led to the development of varied tutorial activities with the goal of engaging the students in active learning to deepen their understanding of the course content. The use of varied learning activities and exposure to different learning styles will continue in the next academic year with the new cohort of students and could be adapted to all physiology tutorials across all programmes.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements