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Joel Michael Advan Physiol Educ 30: , doi: /advan You might find this additional information useful... This article cites 63 articles, 15 of which you can access free at:
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Joel Michael Advan Physiol Educ 30: , doi: /advan You might find this additional information useful... This article cites 63 articles, 15 of which you can access free at: This article has been cited by 21 other HighWire hosted articles, the first 5 are: Process-oriented guided-inquiry learning in an introductory anatomy and physiology course with a diverse student population P. J. P. Brown Advan Physiol Educ, September 1, 2010; 34 (3): [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF] Teaching diffusion with a coin H. Haddad and M. V. C. Baldo Advan Physiol Educ, September 1, 2010; 34 (3): [Full Text] [PDF] Connecting Biology and Mathematics: First Prepare the Teachers A. Sorgo CBE Life Sci Educ, September 1, 2010; 9 (3): [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF] Perspectives on presentation and pedagogy in aid of bioinformatics education P. L. Buttigieg Brief Bioinform, August 19, 2010; 0 (2010): bbq062v1-bbq062. [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF] Using live tissue laboratories to promote clinical reasoning in doctor of physical therapy students W. A. Moore and A. C. Noonan Advan Physiol Educ, June 1, 2010; 34 (2): [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF] Medline items on this article's topics can be found at on the following topics: Criminology.. Education (Criminology) Economic Science.. Employment Education.. Active Learning Education.. Educational Psychology Education.. Instruction Updated information and services including high-resolution figures, can be found at: Additional material and information about Advances in Physiology Education can be found at: This information is current as of October 14, Advances in Physiology Education is dedicated to the improvement of teaching and learning physiology, both in specialized courses and in the broader context of general biology education. It is published four times a year in March, June, September and December by the American Physiological Society, 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD Copyright 2006 by the American Physiological Society. ISSN: , ESSN: Visit our website at Adv Physiol Educ 30: , 2006; doi: /advan Where s the evidence that active learning works? Joel Michael Department of Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, Illinois Submitted 23 June 2006; accepted in final form 10 August 2006 Michael, Joel. Where s the evidence that active learning works? Adv Physiol Educ 30: , 2006; doi: /advan Calls for reforms in the ways we teach science at all levels, and in all disciplines, are wide spread. The effectiveness of the changes being called for, employment of student-centered, active learning pedagogy, is now well supported by evidence. The relevant data have come from a number of different disciplines that include the learning sciences, cognitive psychology, and educational psychology. There is a growing body of research within specific scientific teaching communities that supports and validates the new approaches to teaching that have been adopted. These data are reviewed, and their applicability to physiology education is discussed. Some of the inherent limitations of research about teaching and learning are also discussed. learning; teaching; science education; physiology education THE PUBLICATION of A Nation at Risk: the Imperative for Reform by the National Commission on Excellence in Education in 1983 (75) was only the first of many recent calls for the reform of K 12 science education in the United States. The following year, the Association of American Medical Colleges (4) called for significant changes in the teaching of basic sciences to medical students. In 1990, the National Research Council (76) identified problems with biology education in our nation s high schools, and, more recently in 2003 (77), it voiced concerns about the way in which undergraduate education in biology is carried out. All of these critiques have urged us to adopt approaches to teaching that more actively involve the student in the learning process, that focus on problem solving as well as memorization, and that lead to more longlasting, meaningful learning (see Refs. 61 and 70 for discussions of educational reforms in the life sciences). One of the most pointed critiques of the state of science education was articulated by Volpe in 1984 (107), and his words are as relevant today as they were more than 20 years ago. Public understanding of science is appalling. The major contributor to society s stunning ignorance of science has been our educational system. The inability of students to appreciate the scope, meaning, and limitations of science reflects our conventional lecture-oriented curriculum with its emphasis on passive learning. The student s traditional role is that of a passive note-taker and regurgitator of factual information. What is urgently needed is an educational program in which students become interested in actively knowing, rather than passively believing. More recently, Halpern and Hakel (32) observed that... it would be difficult to design an educational model that is more at odds with current research on human cognition than the one Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: J. Michael, Dept. of Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL ( that is used in most colleges and universities. Apparently, not much has changed since It would seem that we need to do something to change the way that science is taught, and we need to do it now. At the same time that reforms are being proposed, there is a growing call to base educational decision making on evidence from high-quality educational research ( evidence-based education ). At the K 12 level, this is now a matter of national legislation. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (Ref. 38a; see if you want to read all 670 pages of this legislation) mandates that federally funded programs be based on rigorous scientific research, and the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (38) essentially describes what constitutes rigorous research paradigms in education. Eisenhart and Towne (23) have published a very useful discussion of the implications these two pieces of legislation. In the sphere of medical education, Van der Vleuten, Dolmans and Sherpbier (106), and Murray (74) have pointed out the need for a research base for reform in medical education. Norman (81) has raised some cautions about the problems of doing this research but clearly supports the need for such data. The National Research Council report of Scientific Research in Education (78) is an in-depth discussion of how meaningful data about teaching and learning should be obtained. As scientists, we have been trained to make decisions based on evidence, and it is appropriate to ask where the evidence is that these proposed new approaches to teaching and learning, these reforms, work any better than the old approaches from which we all learned and from which our students seem to be learning. The short answer is that there IS evidence out there and that it does support the claims made by advocates of reform. The purpose of this article is to present some of that evidence and discuss its applicability to physiology teaching. I will first present some of the relevant evidence from the sciences basic to education (cognitive psychology, educational psychology, and the learning sciences) and then present some of the evidence that comes from some science disciplines. I will also try to provide a road map to help in finding the relevant literature and some guidelines in reading it critically. Like any of the scientific fields with which we are most familiar, educational research is generating an ever-growing data base, and it is becoming increasing difficult to keep up with the literature. It is not feasible to review every topic relevant to physiology teaching and learning, and the exclusion of any topics (authentic assessment, the uses of computers, or the importance of animal use in the student laboratory) does not mean that they are unimportant. Not everything could be included here. The references cited here are a necessarily idiosyncratic selection, with one of the selection criteria being the accessibility of the sources cited (for example, no conference pro /06 $8.00 Copyright 2006 The American Physiological Society 159 160 ACTIVE LEARNING EVIDENCE ceedings, which in the fields discussed here are very common, have been included). I have also tried to identify monographs and review articles that are particularly relevant, but I have also included some of the original articles reporting important results. Unlike fields such as molecular biology or physiologic genomics, old findings in educational research continue to be germane today, and the work cited here spans the last 40 years of research. What Is Active Learning and What Are These New Approaches to Learning? What are the specific reforms or innovative approaches to teaching that... more actively involve the student in the learning process? Table 1 contains a partial list of such approaches to learning taken from Michael and Modell (61); each is discussed (to varying extents) in the discussion that follows. The approaches to teaching listed in Table 1 are commonly said to involve active learning and to be student centered. These terms have been succinctly defined as follows (18): Active Learning. The process of having students engage in some activity that forces them to reflect upon ideas and how they are using those ideas. Requiring students to regularly assess their own degree of understanding and skill at handling concepts or problems in a particular discipline. The attainment of knowledge by participating or contributing. The process of keeping students mentally, and often physically, active in their learning through activities that involve them in gathering information, thinking, and problem solving. Student-Centered Instruction. Student-centered instruction [SCI] is an instructional approach in which students influence the content, activities, materials, and pace of learning. This learning model places the student (learner) in the center of the learning process. The instructor provides students with opportunities to learn independently and from one another and coaches them in the skills they need to do so effectively. The SCI approach includes such techniques as substituting active learning experiences for lectures, assigning open-ended problems and problems requiring critical or creative thinking that cannot be solved by following text examples, involving students in simulations and role plays, and using self-paced and/or cooperative (team-based) learning. Properly implemented SCI can lead to increased motivation to learn, greater retention of knowledge, deeper understanding, and more positive attitudes towards the subject being taught. Pedersen and Liu (85) point out that student centered is usually defined in opposition to teacher centered, and Barr and Tagg (6) have discussed a change in the educational paradigm from one that focuses on teaching to one that focuses on learning. For example, a conventional lecture-based course is said to be teacher centered because of the view that what Table 1. Some student-centered, active learning approaches from Michael and Modell (61) Problem-based or case-based learning Cooperative/collaborative learning/group work of all kinds Think-pair-share or peer instruction Conceptual change strategies Inquiry-based learning Discovery learning Technology-enhanced learning matters most in determining what is learned is what the teacher does in the lecture hall. It is, of course, understood that what the students do in response to the teacher s lectures matters, but the focus is on the teacher in the front of the classroom. A student-centered learning environment is one in which the attention is on what the students are doing, and it is the students behavior that is the significant determinant of what is learned. Again, it is acknowledged that what the teacher does matters greatly (after all, it is the teacher who designs and implements the learning environment), but the attention here is firmly on the students. Alexander and Murphy (1) have discussed the research behind learner-centered approaches, and Walczyk and Ramsey (108) have described the application this approach in college science classrooms. What is it that the students should be doing in a typical student-centered active learning environment? Michael and Modell (61) have described the process as building mental models of whatever is being learned, consciously and deliberately testing those models to determine whether they work, and then repairing those models that appear to be faulty. This description seems consonant with the definition of active learning previously presented. Students learning in this way are more likely to be achieving meaningful learning (5, 59, 60, 68, 82). Evidence From the Learning Sciences, Cognitive Science, and Educational Psychology Supporting Active Learning How do we know that student-centered, active learning approaches work and that they work better than conventional, teacher-centered, usually passive approaches? There have been several attempts to collate and summarize research findings from psychology and other fields that relate to teaching and learning. Lambert and McCombs in 1998 (44) and Bransford et al. in 1999 (11) have both published important books in which these findings are summarized. The Bransford et al. book, in particular, has been very influential in shaping the thinking of the education community. These works, and there are many others, deal with learning across all the disciplines. Michael and Modell (61) have reviewed our current understanding of the learning process and discussed key ideas about learning that apply to active learning in the science classroom. The following are brief descriptions of some of the key findings that need to be incorporated in our thinking as we make decisions about teaching physiology at any educational level. These ideas are accepted by essentially all researchers (11, 44), although the comments here are somewhat simplified. No attempt has been made to describe all of the controversies that remain unresolved. I have underlined some of the key terms that occur in this literature because their use is essential in doing electronic searches for additional information. 1. Learning involves the active construction of meaning by the learner. This is the fundamental tenet of constructivism, the dominant paradigm in psychology and the learning sciences. As Driver et al. (22) state, The view that knowledge cannot be transmitted but must be constructed by the mental activity of learners underpins contemporary perspectives on science education. Learners construct meaning from the old information and models that they have (the foundation, if you ACTIVE LEARNING EVIDENCE 161 will) and the new information they acquire, and they do so by linking the new information to that which they already know. The construction of meaning is facilitated by making multiple links between the information being acquired and the existing store of information. Information and meaning (whether old or new) are assembled into mental models or representations. One technique that is known to help students build useful mental models is concept mapping (83). Building multiple models or representation facilitates meaningful learning (68) or learning with understanding (98). It follows, then, that to the extent that old knowledge and old models are faulty, meaningful learning will be compromised. These faulty or flawed mental models are referred to by a variety of terms, with the terms misconceptions or alternative conceptions perhaps carrying the fewest specific implications. The review by Wandersee et al. (27) is a good starting point for understanding this phenomenon. Modell et al. (71) have discussed some of the problems with the terminology that is used in this field and also presented some of the reasons for attempting to diagnose the presence of misconceptions in one s students. Learning can be thought about as a process of conceptual change in which faulty or incomplete models are repaired (46, 99, 110). Fixing faulty mental models, or misconceptions, is universally recognized as being extremely difficult to accomplish, although there are an increasing array of techniques that have been shown to help. Smith et al. (100) and Chi (14) have presented some interesting and potentially useful thoughts about misconceptions and their remediation. 2. Learning facts ( what declarative knowledge) and learning to do something ( how procedural knowledge) are two different processes. Ryle (94) was perhaps the first to point out the difference between knowing that something is true and knowing how to do something. In psychology (2), this has come to be referred to as the difference between declarative knowledge ( knowing that ) and procedural knowledge ( knowing how ). It is increasing clear that the challenge of learning the facts about a physiological mechanism is quite different than the challenge of learning to solve problems with those facts. So, if you expect students to use knowledge to solve any kind of problem, you must provide them with opportunities to practice the needed skills and receive feedback about their performance. Romiszowski (92) has reviewed what is now known about learning a physical (psychomotor) skill and has stated the principles that apply to this learning task. Table 2 contains some of Romiszowski s rules for promoting skills learning and describes their application to learning problem-solving skills. Segal and Chipman (96) have assembled an interesting collection of articles on teaching problem-solving skills. 3. Some things that are learned are specific to the domain or context (subject matter or course) in which they were learned, whereas other things are more readily transferred to other domains. Transfer (86) is said to occur when learning of one subject or topic (or in one context) affects learning in another subject or topic (or in a different context). It is important to note that transfer can be either positive or negative, although most discussions of transfer focus solely on positive transfer because this is obviously the desired outcome of learning. All aspects of transfer continue be quite controversial (33, 56): What does it mean, How does one determine whether it Table 2. Some rules for promoting skills learning [from Romiszowski (92)] and their application to learning problem solving Let the student observe a sequential action pattern before attempting to execute it. Demonstrate a task from the viewpoint of the performer. Model the problem-solving process for students (57, 58). Setting a specific goal can lead to more rapid mastery of a skilled activity. Ensure that students understand what it means to solve different kinds of problems (58). In general, learning feedback (results information) promotes learning, and action feedback (control information) does not. Letting students complete the problem-solving task before getting feedback about their success promotes learning better than providing feedback at each step in the solution (23). In general, feedback is more effective in promoting learning when it transmits more complete information. Students learning to solve problems need more than just an assessment of whether their answer was correct or not (58). Transfer and retention of motor skills are improved by overlearning. The more problems students solve (with appropriate feedback), the more readily they will be able to solve novel problems, a defining characteristic of meaningful learning (55). Avoid too fast a progression to more difficult tasks. Present the student with a sequence of problems that moves from easy to hard as their performance improves (23). has occurred, What conditions promote it, and What conditions hinder its occurrence? However, the issue is so central to all discussions of
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