Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



School of Medicine


Microbiology, Immunology, and Cell Biology

Committee Chair

Robert W. Brock

Committee Co-Chair

Stanley M. Hileman

Committee Member

Mark A. Paternostro


Students are leaving undergraduate science programs without the knowledge and skills they are expected to have. This is apparent in professional programs, such as medical and veterinary school, where students do not possess the critical thinking skills necessary to be successful. Physiology is a required discipline for these professional programs and often before, as a pre-requisite. Physiology classrooms are an excellent place to teach critical thinking skills because the content consists of integrated processes. Therefore, in one study, it was investigated whether focusing on physiological concepts improved student understanding of physiology in both a non-physiological science course, Invertebrate Zoology, and in an undergraduate physiology course. An educational intervention was used in Invertebrate Zoology, where students were exposed to human physiology concepts that were similar to comparative physiology concepts they had learned during the semester. A pre-/post-test was used to assess learning gains. In a second study, the use of multimedia file usage was correlated to student exam scores in a physiology course. This was done to see if providing additional study materials that focused on specific concepts improved student understanding, as assessed using exam scores. Overall these studies indicate that encouraging assimilation of new concepts that expand upon material from lecture may help students gain a more complete understanding of a concept. The integration of these concepts into pre-existing conceptual frameworks may serve to teach students valuable critical thinking skills such as evaluation of new ideas within their current understanding and synthesizing the new content with the existing information. Focusing on this type of conceptual learning may enable students to apply content knowledge and think through problems. Additionally, focusing on concepts may enable students to improve their understanding of material without being overwhelmed by content.