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Introduction of Active Learning Techniques Increases Student Learning in a Systems Physiology Laboratory Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Research in Biomedical Pedagogy

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.814.1 - 24.814.9



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Paper Authors


Renata Fortuna Ramos Rice University

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Renata Ramos is a lecturer in the department of bioengineering at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

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Introduction of Active Learning Techniques Increases Student Learning in a Systems Physiology Laboratory CourseMany laboratory courses focus on teaching experimental techniques and often do this byproviding step-by-step protocols for students to follow. While this technique exposes thestudents to hands-on experiences and allows them to learn in a controlled environment, it doesnot always promote a deep understanding of the material because the students fail to constructknowledge. To address this, the sophomore-level systems physiology laboratory course has beenrecently modified to include more active learning.The systems physiology laboratory course is structured around measuring common physiologicalsignals, including EMG, EEG, ECG, and pulmonary function. Students work in groups and useBIOPAC hardware and software to record and analyze these signals. Without changing thecontent of the class or the equipment used, active learning was introduced in 2013 at threedifferent stages of the class:1. Before lab: An extra lab session was offered to one team of students per section per week todevelop their capacity to be peer-leaders. These students worked in groups to gain an in-depthunderstanding of the material to be covered the following week in lab.2. During lab: The peer-leaders present a short lecture covering the necessary backgroundinformation. Additionally, they serve as ‘experts’ helping their peers troubleshoot and completethe lab activities.3. After lab: Peer-leaders write a modified in-lab protocol with detailed instructions on how toimplement a new laboratory activity that reinforces the concepts learned in class. Thisassignment allows the students to synthesize the knowledge gained in order to develop newideas. The resulting protocols could also be used in the future to supplement the in-lab activities.The impact of these activities was assessed using course grades and a knowledge test given at theend of the semester. Test results show a higher average grade for students that participated inactive learning activities when compared to the students that learned the material in aconventional way without participating in the peer-leader sessions. Average course grades alsoshow an increase after active learning techniques were implemented, suggesting that activelearning techniques contribute to student learning in the systems physiology laboratory course.

Ramos, R. F. (2014, June), Introduction of Active Learning Techniques Increases Student Learning in a Systems Physiology Laboratory Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20706

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