1 De Montfort University (UNITED KINGDOM) / University of Lausanne (SWITZERLAND)
2 De Montfort University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 6896-6900
ISBN: 978-84-697-9480-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2018.1621
Conference name: 12th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2018
Location: Valencia, Spain
Student engagement has been considered vital in order to achieve their full academic potential. This is of particular importance when a university lecturer has to deal with large classes and advanced biomedical concepts. Over the last decade, the topic of epigenetics has been integrated in the curriculum of genetics modules in most UK and overseas university undergraduate programs. However, since undergraduates have often not solid background in molecular genetics, teaching epigenetics can be a real challenge. In this occasion, an active learning approach could be a strategic option for enhancing learning outcome and student satisfaction.

The sandwich model, which is based on studies suggesting that attention span in lectures is 10-15min, is a principle which can be especially applied to teaching in large university classes. According to this model a lecture should be structured as a sequence of different subunits where collective and self-learning are alternated. Teaching information and learning objectives are broken down into smaller learning packages with periodic activities in which students are invited to be engaged in active learning.

In the present study, we aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of the sandwich principle in enhancing student engagement and learning. For this purpose, we comparatively accessed the effectiveness of teaching epigenetics at undergraduate classes with the sandwich model as opposed to the traditional lecturing method. Participants were recruited through the undergraduate programs of “Biomedical Science BSc (Hons)” and “Medical Sciences BSc (Hons)” at De Montfort University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, School of Allied Health Sciences (Leicester, United Kingdom). The experimental setting included random splitting of the class for the module “Molecular Genetics and Genomics” (Level 5) into two groups and delivering the Epigenetic lectures with applying the sandwich model (S-Group) or by traditional lecturing (T-Group), respectively.

Overall, 99 students consented and participated in our experiment (T-group: 45 students, S-group: 54 students). Students received directly at the end of the lectures a multiple-choice questionnaire in order to test learning efficiency in class. The average group score at the questionnaire was 88% for S-group and 72% for T-group respectively.

Our results show that the S-group in which the lecture was structured with the Sandwich model performed significantly better (t-test, p<0.0001) in comparison with the control group (traditional lecturing, T-group). This difference is considered from a statistical point of view extremely significant and supports our research hypothesis, that lectures structured with the sandwich principle support active learning, enhance student engagement and help them to understand and deal with difficult biomedical concepts.

In conclusion, our study provides experimental evidence that applying the Sandwich model in undergraduate biomedical lectures with complex themes such as epigenetics is not only a matter of lecture’s “anatomy” but clearly expands to the “physiology” of the teaching by supporting active learning and promoting learning in class.
Genetics, epigenetics, biology didactics, active learning, sandwich model, teaching in higher education, teaching undergraduates, lecturing large classes.