Physio Employs Less Structured Learning

Mariel Rossi deVries, Staff Writer

A normal day in Roxanna Jackman’s Physiology class includes note-taking and labs designed to provide a hands-on experience. Occasionally, students are also allowed to explore topics in a less structured way.

During a unit on the nervous system, students were given a range of sources and asked to use a creative method of demonstrating what they learned. On February 8 each group shared its finished project while the rest of the class took notes. The idea was to allow independent collaboration in an effort to promote skills for learning, problem solving and innovation.

Some of the subjects were new to the class, like the different functions of the brain, while others were a review of pervious course content, like neurotransmission.

Groups ranged in size from 5 to 8 students,  which made organization of individual responsibilities a particular challenge.

Some found the process of teaching a topic to be a powerful way of learning. “I feel like the presentations were useful for the group presenting because you have to understand your topic before you present on it, but those that I watched were only reinforcing what I already learned,” said senior Ashley Tsang.

Some of the presentations utilized TED talks. Another referenced an interactive tutorial of neuron function and one used a question hunt on the National Institute of Health website.

“I was in the group that did parts of the brain and functions of the brain and I chose the National Institute of Health notes because I wanted to cover all the bases,” said Tsang.

She found the unit particularly helpful because it allowed her to investigate independently. “The resources we have are very handy. I am a visual learner, so the interactive tutorial was helpful in learning to memorize the material. It’s different from having a textbook and the different style was super beneficial to my understanding of the section,” said Tsang.

Looking beyond the text book was an important feature of the project for some. “I found it helpful because the tutorials that we had to use were more interactive. Just reading about them in the textbook can be kind of monotonous and boring, this way I can find real examples of them and actually see two neurons interacting,” said senior Ethan Tonomura.

While there were benefits to the student centered collaboration, it also caused some confusion. According to junior Julie Hyatt, “It was a little difficult to stay on task. One thing that could be improved would be keeping the group together because we split up and then our presentation wasn’t as organized because there were so many of us.”

“I would do it again, but I would also like Mrs. Jackman at the end to reinforce all of the subjects that we learned to make sure that everyone still gets the proper information,” said Tonomura.