2013 textbooks

(The FASEB Journal. 2013;27:739.4)

Homeostasis in undergraduate physiology textbooks

Joel Michael1, Jenny McFarland2, William Cliff3, Harold Modell4, Mary Pat Wenderoth5 and Anne Wright6
1 Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL
2 Biology, Edmonds Community College, Lynnwood, WA
3 Biology, Niagara University, Lewiston, NY
4 PERC, Seattle, WA
5 Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
6 Biology, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY

Physiology faculty regard homeostasis as one of the core concepts their students should understand and be able to apply. We asked how 10 commonly used undergraduate physiology and biology textbooks introduce and use this core concept. We evaluated these textbooks to answer a number of questions: (1) do they contain an identifiable introductory ‘section’ on homeostasis, (2) is this initial description (terms and figures) complete and accurate, (3) to what extent are the same terms and similar figures used in different textbooks, and (4) do subsequent chapters apply the ideas about homeostasis. Two preliminary findings are of interest. First, the language used to talk about homeostasis is inconsistent, even in the same textbook, often confusing and sometimes incorrect. Second, even when a suitable description of homeostasis is present, the same language and diagram(s) may not be used to reinforce student learning in describing homeostasis in organ system physiology. The consequences of these problems for student understanding and application of homeostasis are discussed. Supported by NSF grant DUE-1043443.

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