LEARNING BIOPHYSICS BY BUILDING MODELS: IS IT POSSIBLE?
, M. Baptista2
2Instituto de Educação Universidade de Lisboa (PORTUGAL)
The curricula of higher education courses in the area of Health usually place the curricular units of Basic Sciences in the first years of the course. This knowledge, supposedly, is "stored" by the students in order to be applied in later curricular units.
One of the major disadvantages of this structure is that knowledge and skills will have to be acquired in the long term. In this way, it is necessary to use teaching methodologies that guarantee retention of the acquired knowledge in the long term, so that students take the knowledge as if it were their own so that it can be correlated with the new knowledge.
But on the other side this kind of structure is not very well accepted by the students because the importance of the learning the fundamentals sciences is not immediately understood by them. This implies that the motivation for this kind of basic science disciplines is very low.
The building of numerical models of biophysical phenomena, such as the mechanics of breathing, or blood circulation, has the potential for student motivation as well as long-term learning. Our theory is that by building well known numerical models of physiological phenomena in a spread sheet, students have the opportunity to change their perceptions about the relevance of the contents addressed, simultaneously improving their learning in the topics covered and increasing their motivation in the discipline.
The option for the use of a spread sheet is justified because it does not require prior knowledge of programming languages, or about complex mathematical software, which would an obstacle to the biophysics learning. There is also the side effect of learning how to use a spread sheet that is a plus in itself.
After the development time of the model the students have an individual oral assessment, which includes a final assessment of the developed model. Following this the student delivers a written report. It is in this report that the students shows the tests they have done to the model, as well as a reflection on the model they used, its limitations, some possible applications, and some considerations about possible future developments.
It is intended to recognise the challenges that students face when building the models, and also know the evolution of the learning and to know the students' perception about the importance of the construction of models in biophysics and in the learning of biophysics.
At this moment we have done already two complete cycles. At the end of each cycle there is an evaluation which is use to developed the next cycle, the third one in this moment.
In the very near future we will try to apply this learning methodology to other disciplines, using different models according to each discipline. In this way we would be able to compare results of different implementations of this new learning methodology.