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A Systems Physiology Instructional Environment For Biomedical Engineers: A Design Grounded In The Learning Sciences

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.117.1 - 6.117.10



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J.B. Troy

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David Kanter

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B.J. Reiser

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1609

A Systems Physiology Instructional Environment for Biomedical Engineers: a Design Grounded in the Learning Sciences

D.E. Kanter 1,2, B.J. Reiser 2, J.B. Troy 1 1 Department of Biomedical Engineering / 2 School of Education and Social Policy Northwestern University, Evanston, IL


To the extent that Biomedical Engineering (BME) is rooted in the biological and medical sciences, a core Systems Physiology course provides undergraduates with an important learning opportunity. However, the rapid evolution of BME’s biological and medical foundations necessitates that beyond learning systems physiology’s content and concepts, pre-professionals must learn to apply relevant aspects of systems physiology to unanticipated new tasks. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s EC-2000 criteria similarly support engineers learning to apply their knowledge. This paper describes a principled approach by which we are designing a BME instructional environment in which students learn systems physiology subject matter coupled to its application. We explain how our design principles for this instructional environment evolved from the Project-based Science pedagogical framework and a modern understanding of how people learn, and further discuss our process of participatory design, which involves individuals from both BME and the Learning Sciences. We present our progress to date, and the ideas we have distilled from this experience.

1. Introduction

Grounded in the biological and medical sciences, Biomedical Engineering (BME) uses systems physiology as a core component of its undergraduate curriculum. The fact that this is so is reflected by the extent to which most undergraduate BME curricula include formal training in systems physiology. Systems physiology is one of few places in the curriculum where undergraduate BME students can develop a specialized vocabulary in biology or medicine, a specialized knowledge of the problem-solving techniques of biology or medicine, a capacity to deal effectively with the uncertain behavior of biological systems, and a generalized knowledge of the application of engineering techniques to biological or medical topics 1. At the end of their training, Biomedical Engineers should uniquely possess such competencies. But beyond the agreed-upon merit of teaching systems physiology, there is little consensus on how best for BME students to learn systems physiology, and what of this material to emphasize.

As the knowledge base of biology and medicine changes with ever increasing speed— evolving so rapidly as to require unprecedented on-the-job training by Biomedical Engineers— one could argue that BME pre-professionals are best served by learning to apply systems physiology’s governing principles facilely to addressing unforeseen challenges. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s (ABET) “new” EC-2000 criteria support this focus on learning to apply knowledge in relevant situations. EC-2000 goes well beyond the knowledge acquisition on which universities have traditionally focused 2 to emphasize higher-order cognitive skills

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Troy, J., & Kanter, D., & Reiser, B. (2001, June), A Systems Physiology Instructional Environment For Biomedical Engineers: A Design Grounded In The Learning Sciences Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9844

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