McFarland et al 2012

(The FASEB Journal. 2012;26:720.4)

Conceptual frameworks and misconceptions associated with core principles of physiology, including homeostasis

Jenny McFarland1, Joel Michael2, Mary Pat Wenderoth3, Harold Modell4, Ann Wright5 and William Cliff6
1 Biology, Edmonds Community College, Lynnwood, WA
2 Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL
3 Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
4 Physiology Educational Research Consortium, Seattle, WA
5 Biology, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY
6 Biology, Niagara University, Lewiston, NY

The core principles of physiology are those that physiology students should understand and be able to use. We have ‘unpacked’ three of the most important core principles (Flow Down Gradients, Homeostasis and Cell-Cell Communications) into their component ideas and thereby articulated a conceptual framework for each. Physiology faculty at 2-and 4-year colleges, universities and medical schools were surveyed and asked to identify the importance of each of the component ideas; the result of our first survey on ‘Flow’ was reported last year. Amongst the >40 responses to our survey on unpacking Homeostasis, there was strong agreement on the importance of the first level of component ideas within the conceptual framework. For example, ~80% agreed that the component idea that “Homeostatic processes require a sensor” was essential to understanding this core concept, however, less that a third responded that sub-component idea ‘Sensory receptors may be in different, distant locations in the body’ was essential. We have also identified misconceptions associated with some core principles and linked these to our unpacked conceptual frameworks. We are using the conceptual frameworks and the misconceptions to develop a conceptual assessment of physiology (CAP) instrument (i.e., a concept inventory). Supported by NSF grant DUE-1043443.

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