ERIC Number: EJ1139056
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Jun
Abstractor: As Provided
Structure-Function Relations in Physiology Education: Where's the Mechanism?
Lira, Matthew E.; Gardner, Stephanie M.
Advances in Physiology Education, v41 n2 p270-278 Jun 2017
Physiology demands systems thinking: reasoning within and between levels of biological organization and across different organ systems. Many physiological mechanisms explain how structures and their properties interact at one level of organization to produce emergent functions at a higher level of organization. Current physiology principles, such as structure-function relations, selectively neglect mechanisms by not mentioning this term explicitly. We explored how students characterized mechanisms and functions to shed light on how students make sense of these terms. Students characterized mechanisms as 1) processes that occur at levels of organization lower than that of functions; and 2) as detailed events with many steps involved. We also found that students produced more variability in how they characterized functions compared with mechanisms: students characterized functions in relation to multiple levels of organization and multiple definitions. We interpret these results as evidence that students see mechanisms as holding a more narrow definition than used in the biological sciences, and that students struggle to coordinate and distinguish mechanisms from functions due to cognitive processes germane to learning in many domains. We offer the instructional suggestion that we scaffold student learning by affording students opportunities to relate and also distinguish between these terms so central to understanding physiology.
Descriptors: Physiology, Systems Approach, Undergraduate Students, Science Instruction, College Science, Scaffolding (Teaching Technique), College Seniors, Interviews, Organization, Qualitative Research, Logical Thinking, Scientific Principles
American Physiological Society. 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20814-3991. Tel: 301-634-7164; Fax: 301-634-7241; e-mail: email@example.com; Web site: http://advan.physiology.org/
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Indiana
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A