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Teaching-to-Learn Sessions to Achieve Subject Relevance in an Introduction to Biomedical Engineering Course

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

BME Course and Curriculum Development

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1262.1 - 25.1262.15



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Paper Authors


Steve Warren Kansas State University

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Steve Warren received a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Kansas State University in 1989 and 1991, respectively, followed by a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1994. Warren is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Kansas State University. Prior to joining KSU in Aug. 1999, Warren was a Principal Member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. He directs the KSU Medical Component Design Laboratory, a facility partially funded by the National Science Foundation that provides resources for the research and development of distributed medical monitoring technologies and learning tools that support biomedical contexts. His research focuses on plug-and-play, point-of-care medical monitoring systems that utilize interoperability standards; wearable sensors and signal processing techniques for the determination of human and animal physiological status; and educational tools and techniques that maximize learning and student interest. Warren is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

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Teaching-to-Learn Sessions to Achieve Subject Relevance in an Introduction to Biomedical Engineering CourseAbstractThe instructor of an Introduction to Biomedical Engineering course senses pressure to touch on abroad set of topics, where any given topic is difficult to address at a reasonable level of depth if acourse goal is to achieve even moderate coverage of this growing field. Since such courses oftenattract a wide array of students from different areas of engineering, this problem of breadthversus depth is compounded by (a) differences in student preparation related to subjects such asbiology, mathematics, and circuits, (b) stark variations in the core interests of the students, and(c) cultural disparities between engineering departments regarding reasonable levels ofassignment difficulty and commensurate time investments. To help address some of these issuesin a junior-level Introduction to Biomedical Engineering course, the author has chosen (for therecent three course offerings) to set aside at least 3 weeks of each 16-week course fordiscretionary topics chosen by the students. Each student or student pair then takes on the role ofthe instructor and teaches that topic to the rest of the students in the format of a 25-minuteseminar. Students must assign homework to their peers and grade the results; these grades arethen entered into the course spreadsheet along with regular course homework. These teaching-to-learn sessions help to ensure a level of relevance and topical interest that is difficult to attaingiven the wide array of student backgrounds and the semester-to-semester variability in studentdemographics. Further, the idea behind these sessions is consistent with the experientialknowledge that one understands a subject more deeply when one is required to teach it to others.This seemingly straightforward pedagogical intervention has been surprisingly successful. Thesesessions are often of higher quality than lectures planned by the assigned course instructor, andboth the students and the instructor consider them the highlight of the semester. End-of-semesterassessments based on rubrics published to students beforehand point toward excellentperformance by the presenters and satisfactory learning by the students. While some of thetopics are arguably more superficial than desirable and lead to homework with reduceddifficulty, class attendance is improved, and the topic set is more fluid and better matched tosemester-dependent variations in student preparation and demographics.

Warren, S. (2012, June), Teaching-to-Learn Sessions to Achieve Subject Relevance in an Introduction to Biomedical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22019

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