BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN THEORY AND PRACTICE: PEDAGOGICAL INNOVATIONS IN THE BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE CLASSROOM THAT ENGAGE STUDENTS IN ACTIVE LEARNING AND ENHANCE BOTH TEACHING AND LEARNING
Queensland University of Technology (AUSTRALIA)
Those biomedical science teaching approaches that feature ‘stand and deliver’ presentations and rely on fact memorisation are widely regarded as a poor way of learning and do not encourage student engagement with the topic or the teacher. There is also frequently a disconnect between lecture (theory) and laboratory (practical application) teaching as well as what skill-sets biomedical science graduates need for the workplace. In addressing the aforementioned issues, a truly innovative pedagogical model that reinvents how science is taught and learned has been developed. Our theory-practice coherent pathway of engagement and active learning features: (1) interactive lecture-tutorial hybrids (lectorials) featuring role-plays, Q&A sessions and “dry” laboratory activities, (2) lectorial and “wet” lab-based critical-thinking/real-world problem-solving and (3) higher order thinking-focussed formative and summative assessments. A lectorial is a lecture-tutorial fusion and in our model role-play activities and class/group level open discussions allow for both knowledge to be constructed and understanding to be facilitated. Face-to-face interaction with the teacher is a key part of the pedagogy. In an innovative departure from traditional approaches, lectorials actually commence lab activities that are further explored in the “wet” lab and so lectorials may be viewed as “dry” lab learning experiences. Wet lab learning activities, where students process biomedical specimens hands-on and solve case scenario problems by using their critical thinking-complex reasoning (CT-CR) skills, extend and reinforce lectorial experiences reflecting an experiential learning co-emphasis. Hence, our model seamlessly connects theoretical and practical aspects of biomedical microbiology. Moreover, in our model, knowledge acquisition is replaced by knowledge construction integrated with understanding facilitation and demonstration of both via application. This triangulated (K-U-A) pedagogical focus is supported by development and refinement of two key higher order learning skills (CT-CR) as integral elements embedded early in the active learning pathway, not as add-ons. The model has been developed within both workplace (real world) and theoretical frameworks. The coherent pathway of engagement and active learning described here spans first year (foundation), second year (developmental) and third year (advanced) biomedical microbiology streams. Around 350 undergraduate students are involved. For the past three years, qualitative and quantitative data derived from online and hardcopy evaluations, solicited and unsolicited student and graduate feedback, anecdotal evidence as well as peer review clearly show that our: (i) students are engaging with the pedagogy, (ii) constructivist, authentic-learning approach promotes active learning and (iii) students are better prepared for workplace transition. One representative survey (3 subjects; 61% mean response rate; n = 129) showed 79–90% of student respondents across 2nd and 3rd year subjects identified and valued interactivity in lectorials, CT-CR activities/questions and application of knowledge and understanding. Together with a transformation in the classroom dynamic and demonstrated improvements in student assessment outcomes, the evidence points to a significant change in student engagement and active learning in biomedical microbiology. The model has been translated to other biomedical science contexts.