JMF JM big ideals

(The FASEB Journal. 2011;25:672.13)

The core principles (big ideas) of physiology: results of faculty surveys

Jenny L McFarland1 and Joel A Michael2.
1Biology, Edmonds Community College, Lynnwood, WA and 2 Molecular Biophysics & Physiology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL

As in all disciplines, there are big ideas or core principles in physiology that students should know and be able to use in clinical and scientific applications. Understanding core principles is central to any discipline but it may not always be obvious to the learner (or teacher) what those principles are. Here we report the results of 3 surveys of faculty that address the core principles in physiology. Faculty at 2-year colleges, 4-year colleges, universities and medical schools were surveyed and asked what they thought the core principles of physiology are that they want their students to understand. Fifteen core principles were identified in this first survey. In a second survey respondents were asked to rank order these 15 core principles and to identify the three most important for their students to understand. The four most important core principles were identified: cell-to-cell communications, cell membranes, flow down gradients and homeostasis. The flow down gradients core principle was then “unpacked” to yield the component ideas of which it is comprised. In a third survey, respondents were asked to identify the importance of each of the component ideas in our unpacking. There was strong agreement about the importance of the component ideas we had identified. We will be using these survey responses to develop a conceptual assessment of physiology (CAP) instrument (i.e., a concept inventory).

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