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Friday, July 5 • 11:35am - 12:15pm
Autonomy pathways to compare active teaching methods in undergraduate physiology classes

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Physiology undergraduate students grapple with large amounts of content and mostly memorize facts to pass tests and exams. As organ systems are usually taught separately, students also struggle to understand how different systems cross-talk and/or are integrated within the whole organism. It has been argued that science teachers should spend more time on how scientists do science, i.e. the process of science, and less on the academic content, i.e. the products of science, if they are to help students develop strategies such as hypothesis generation, problem solving, experimental design, and evidence evaluation (Mierson, 1998). Here the focus is on the Autonomy dimension as it allows for an assessment of how different knowledge practices are integrated and used to solve real-life problems, thus allowing teachers to make explicit how scientists do science.

Goodman et al. (2018) recently suggested four broad types of active learning interventions for Physiology undergraduate classes, i.e. a) posing questions (at start or end of lectures), b) encouraging think-pair-share activities, c) use of multiple analogies, and d) introducing problem-solving activities. However, they also state that it is difficult to compare the efficacy of such methodologies to identify those most suited to be used within the classroom. This paper therefore examined selected examples of in-house developed Physiology class activities at Stellenbosch University, i.e. case-based learning (“Burning Questions’’), Running Questions (“CSI-type’’), and pair-share activities (“Check Mate-Sole Mate’’) aimed at fostering critical reasoning and problem-solving skills. The four active learning strategies include the use of short- and longer-term case studies for student research, team work and reflective engagement.

For this paper the argument is put forward that Legitimation Code Theory’s (LCT’s) Autonomy dimension (Maton & Howard, 2018) offers a first step towards answering Goodman’s question regarding the comparison of different active teaching methods that are aimed towards problem-solving. The various class activities listed were analyzed using a unique translation device that was specifically designed for this purpose. We employed this approach to assess the various steps in each method (content, purpose) in order to plot autonomy pathways between the four codes. The basic premise is that ‘’inside’’ or ‘’target’’ is the module content for teaching problem-solving in Physiology. Thus, strong positional autonomy (PA) constitutes module content, while other Physiology content would imply a weaker PA (less ‘’inside’’). Other non-Physiology content would be considered even weaker. Teaching for the explicit purpose of integrating knowledge for problem-solving in Physiology would constitute strong relational autonomy (RA), while teaching just for problem-solving generally would be weaker. Teaching for other purposes (content: Physiology or something else) would represent a weaker RA.

Our findings include examples of various autonomy pathways, e.g. multiple analogies where students are reminded that they have encountered similar problems before in other contexts comprises a return trip. By contrast, some of the Burning Questions, where students are expected to explain a real-life scenario using their Physiology knowledge, represent an example of a one-way trip to the target. Interestingly, the CSI-type Running Questions provided a scenario with an extended Autonomy tour.

In summary, an assessment of such active learning techniques through the lens of Autonomy enabled us to determine the putative value and efficacy of each respective method in terms of promoting a problem-solving culture within Physiology undergraduate classrooms.

Friday July 5, 2019 11:35am - 12:15pm SAST
Room B46

Attendees (2)