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Implementation And Assessment Of Challenge Based Instruction In A Biomedical Optics Course

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Simulation Courses & BME Laboratories

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.656.1 - 8.656.8

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Paper Authors

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E. Jansen

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Session 1309

Implementation and assessment of challenge-based instruction in a biomedical optics course

E. Duco Jansen, Sean P. Brophy, Ann McKenna, Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, Joseph T. Walsh, Jr.

Department of Biomedical Engineering Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN (EDJ, SPB, AMJ)

Department of Biomedical Engineering Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (AM, JTW)

Abstract The domain of biophotonics/biomedical optics continues to increase in importance for many areas of Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, and the Life Sciences. Whatever the ultimate goal of the use of light in medicine and biology, the initial interaction and distribution of light within biological tissue is fundamental. Students at all levels have considerable difficulty with many of the concepts that govern light distribution in tissue. To address these conceptual difficulties, new paradigms in the learning sciences advocate approaches that actively engage the students in models of challenge-based learning. The goals of this project were: 1) implementation of a challenge-based learning module, based on the laser treatment of a Port Wine Stain in an introductory course on Biomedical Optics, to teach the fundamental concepts of tissue optics; 2) assessment of the value of this module compared with two other modules (ablation and spectroscopy) that were not implemented in a challenge-based fashion. Our experimental design encompassed three instructors at two institutions teaching this material over the span of a year, with three different cohorts of students. We created an assessment instrument that consisted of 4 problems that probed the students’ understanding as well as captured their ability to apply concepts to novel problems. Students were asked to complete these problems at the beginning (pre) and at the end (post) of the semester. Based on the learning goals of the course we created a scoring rubric that consisted of eleven categories, each with a five point scale. Students’ answers to the questions (pre and post) were scored according to the rubric by three independent instructors who were blind to the identity of the students. In addition, data were collected using an observation system to quantify each student’s level of engagement during class in the experimental (challenge- based) and control (non-challenge based) groups. Analysis indicates 1) a higher level of student engagement during challenge-based instruction; and 2) statistically significant improvement in understanding between pre- and post assessment. This paper presents a full assessment-based analysis of the utility and benefits of the challenge-based learning approach in a bioengineering environment with a discussion of the broader implication to engineering education in general.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Jansen, E. (2003, June), Implementation And Assessment Of Challenge Based Instruction In A Biomedical Optics Course Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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