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ERIC Number: EJ919748
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar
Pages: 6
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1043-4046
Voluntary Participation in an Active Learning Exercise Leads to a Better Understanding of Physiology
Carvalho, Helena; West, Crystal A.
Advances in Physiology Education, v35 n1 p53-58 Mar 2011
Students learn best when they are focused and thinking about the subject at hand. To teach physiology, we must offer opportunities for students to actively participate in class. This approach aids in focusing their attention on the topic and thus generating genuine interest in the mechanisms involved. This study was conducted to determine if offering voluntary active learning exercises would improve student understanding and application of the material covered. To compare performance, an anonymous cardiorespiratory evaluation was distributed to two groups of students during the fall (control, n = 168) and spring (treatment, n = 176) semesters. Students in both groups were taught by traditional methods, and students in the treatment group had the option to voluntary participate in two additional active learning exercises: 1) a small group discussion, where students would discuss a physiology topic with their Teaching Assistant before running BIOPAC software for the laboratory exercise and 2) a free response question, where students anonymously responded to one short essay question after the laboratory exercise. In these formative assessments, students received feedback about their present state of learning from the discussion with their peers and also from the instructor comments regarding perceived misconceptions. As a result of the participation in these activities, students in the treatment group had a better overall performance [chi[superscript 2] (degree of freedom = 1) = 31.2, P less than 0.001] on the evaluation (treatment group: 62% of responses correct and control group: 49%) with an observed difference of 13% (95% confidence interval: 8, 17). In conclusion, this study presents sufficient evidence that when the opportunity presents itself, students become active participants in the learning process, which translates into an improvement in their understanding and application of physiological concepts. (Contains 5 tables and 1 figure.)
American Physiological Society. 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20814-3991. Tel: 301-634-7164; Fax: 301-634-7241; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Virginia