Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2016 (Dublin, Ireland) (2016) Proc Physiol Soc 37, PCA113

Poster Communications

The Mobile Physiology Laboratory: a tool to promote the understanding of Physiology by secondary school students

M. Burke1, J. J. Mackrill1, G. Jasionek1, T. Ruane-O'Hora1

1. Physiology, University College Cork, Cork, County Cork, Ireland.


Introduction: As a Department of Physiology in which teaching is a core activity and which also promotes the discipline as an undergraduate degree outlet, a concern is a lack of knowledge of this field among the public and in particular, among prospective students. This is often encountered during ‘open days' at University College Cork, when secondary school pupils from throughout the Province of Munster (population of 1.25 million people) visit exhibits hosted by various academic units, aimed at promoting entry into their degree programmes. We considered the utility of pre-emptive, outreach approaches to address this perceived lack of knowledge of the discipline of Physiology among among secondary school students. Specifically, we aimed to develop a means of demonstrating physiological experiments, in the form of a ‘Mobile Physiology Laboratory' (MPL). Methods: the MPL (http://www.ucc.ie/en/physiology/outreachprogrammes/mobilephysiologylaboratory/) consists of portable apparatus to allow demonstration of the measurement of a wide range of physiological parameters and the effects of diet and exercise on these, in situ within secondary schools. Available assays include electrocardiography, phonocardiography, respirometry, estimation of metabolic rate (using a bicycle ergometer and a ‘metabolic system'), nerve conduction velocity, pneumotachography and blood glucose monitoring. These demonstrations can be tailored to suit particular school years and lesson durations. The MPL was trialled to 5th Class pupils (typically 16 to 17 years old; equivalent to 13 (Key Stage 4) in the UK, or Grade 12 in the USA) at two secondary schools in Cork City: Bishopstown Community College (to about 50 students) and Mount Mercy College (30 students) during Autumn 2015. Pupil responses to these demonstrations were assessed using a classroom assessment test (a ‘minute test', Angelo & Cross, 1993), in the form of written responses before and after the lesson, to the question ‘What is physiology?' Results and Discussion: the MPL was viewed positively by many of the students within these cohorts, as indicated by recorded testimonials, for example: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBnMKfxMils) and by informal comments. Moreover, document analyses of minute tests indicated an increase in informed responses to the question ‘What is physiology?' On the basis of these preliminary findings, we plan to expand the use of the MPL as an outreach tool to secondary schools in the Province of Munster and to carefully assess its impact on secondary pupil understanding of Physiology and on the profile of intake to our degree programme.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements