Pedagogical tools designed to promote engagement and active learning in the biomedical sciences and allied health disciplines

O'Brien, Mark (2015) Pedagogical tools designed to promote engagement and active learning in the biomedical sciences and allied health disciplines. In Gómez Chova, L., López Martínez, A., & Candel Torres, I. (Eds.) INTED2015 Proceedings, IATED, Madrid, Spain, pp. 4422-4429.

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Perceiving students, science students especially, as mere consumers of facts and information belies the importance of a need to engage them with the principles underlying those facts and is counter-intuitive to the facilitation of knowledge and understanding. Traditional didactic lecture approaches need a re-think if student classroom engagement and active learning are to be valued over fact memorisation and fact recall.

In our undergraduate biomedical science programs across Years 1, 2 and 3 in the Faculty of Health at QUT, we have developed an authentic learning model with an embedded suite of pedagogical strategies that foster classroom engagement and allow for active learning in the sub-discipline area of medical bacteriology. The suite of pedagogical tools we have developed have been designed to enable their translation, with appropriate fine-tuning, to most biomedical and allied health discipline teaching and learning contexts. Indeed, aspects of the pedagogy have been successfully translated to the nursing microbiology study stream at QUT.

The aims underpinning the pedagogy are for our students to: (1) Connect scientific theory with scientific practice in a more direct and authentic way, (2) Construct factual knowledge and facilitate a deeper understanding, and (3) Develop and refine their higher order flexible thinking and problem solving skills, both semi-independently and independently. The mindset and role of the teaching staff is critical to this approach since for the strategy to be successful tertiary teachers need to abandon traditional instructional modalities based on one-way information delivery. Face-to-face classroom interactions between students and lecturer enable realisation of pedagogical aims (1), (2) and (3). The strategy we have adopted encourages teachers to view themselves more as expert guides in what is very much a student-focused process of scientific exploration and learning.

Specific pedagogical strategies embedded in the authentic learning model we have developed include: (i) interactive lecture-tutorial hybrids or lectorials featuring teacher role-plays as well as class-level question-and-answer sessions, (ii) inclusion of “dry” laboratory activities during lectorials to prepare students for the wet laboratory to follow, (iii) real-world problem-solving exercises conducted during both lectorials and wet laboratory sessions, and (iv) designing class activities and formative assessments that probe a student’s higher order flexible thinking skills. Flexible thinking in this context encompasses analytical, critical, deductive, scientific and professional thinking modes.

The strategic approach outlined above is designed to provide multiple opportunities for students to apply principles flexibly according to a given situation or context, to adapt methods of inquiry strategically, to go beyond mechanical application of formulaic approaches, and to as much as possible self-appraise their own thinking and problem solving.

The pedagogical tools have been developed within both workplace (real world) and theoretical frameworks. The philosophical core of the pedagogy is a coherent pathway of teaching and learning which we, and many of our students, believe is more conducive to student engagement and active learning in the classroom. Qualitative and quantitative data derived from online and hardcopy evaluations, solicited and unsolicited student and graduate feedback, anecdotal evidence as well as peer review indicate that: (i) our students are engaging with the pedagogy, (ii) a constructivist, authentic-learning approach promotes active learning, and (iii) students are better prepared for workplace transition.

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ID Code: 90637
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Pedagogical tools, Engagement and active learning in the biomedical sciences and related disciplines, Authentic learning, Coherent pathway of teaching and learning, Flexible thinking, HERN
ISBN: 9788460657637
ISSN: 2340-1079
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Biomedical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 IATED
Deposited On: 23 Nov 2015 02:34
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2015 01:57

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