Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2016 (Dublin, Ireland) (2016) Proc Physiol Soc 37, PL02

Poster Communications

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? - feedback, flipping and physiology

P. Kumar1

1. University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


Providing students with the positive, life-long benefits of a research-led and enquiry-based education is the worthy and oft-stated ambition of most universities. Such an education should be informed by the new subject knowledge being discovered and disseminated at an unprecedented rate. This new knowledge must be incorporated appropriately into an often, already full curriculum and in a way that places emphasis upon the critical nature of scientific enquiry but still delivers fundamental information. It will also be expected that any education provider should deliver against the proposed TEF agenda of improving student experience, continuation rates and employability. It could be assumed that teaching within an institution that also delivers original research outputs may be all that is required to achieve the ambition described above. But, in an ever more challenging higher education environment how can we know that and how are we assured that our students are equipped with the knowledge and appropriate problem solving skills required by their future employers? Is it, for example, sufficient to believe that the introduction of grade point averages will placate those employers who believe grade inflation has diminished the value of a University degree or do we have a greater obligation to our students and their future colleagues? Additionally, the potential impact of TEF success upon institutional funding means we may be in danger of gaming the process and favouring teaching for the test with the very real danger that we might, inadvertently or otherwise, be driven to decrease course demands and reward recall above understanding. Against this developing and challenging backdrop, I began, a number of years ago, to question the value of my own, traditional teaching methods. The students I taught seemed happy; my Powerpoint slides and handouts were clearer than they had ever been and my prepared jokes and anecdotes were (at least to my ears) honed to near perfection. New information was added annually although it was noticeably much harder to remove previous content. I believed I was teaching understanding. However, I had the nagging doubt that I had been, perhaps unconsciously, steered into this comfortable relationship with the students by a combination of my personal experiences, their evaluations of my modules, my peer group's expectations and the many, ever-increasing other demands on my time. More importantly, somehow in all of this, I felt that knowledge had been forsaken for information and the students were less cognitively engaged than might be hoped for. I therefore began experimenting with the flipped or inverted classroom approach in an attempt to utilise an active learning methodology to replace the passive approach I had lost confidence in. In this Otto Hutter lecture I will describe my experience of changing how I teach and how this energized my interest in the teaching and learning of physiology. I will describe the pitfalls and pleasures I have had along the way and provide evidence to support the success of the methodology whilst acknowledging its difficulties and limitations. Finally, whilst I accept this approach is not a panacea for all of the ills of teaching and can only ever be part of a wider, blended methodology, I hope to show why I believe that flipped and similar approaches can address many of the concerns we face with regard to learning and teaching issues in the higher education sector.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements