The American Physiological Society Press Release

press release logo

APS Contact: APS Communications Office


Phone: 301.634.7209

Twitter: @APSPhysiology

Active Learning Science Courses May Improve Student Retention in STEM

Madison, Wis. (June 21, 2016)—Having undergraduate students take part in scientific discovery may be a viable way to keep students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), according to a growing body of research by science educators and education researchers. While student-directed research courses show promise in keeping students engaged and improving student retention, scaling up these curricula to serve more students presents unique obstacles. Undergraduate STEM educators who teach these courses, along with education researchers and education policymakers discussed their successes and challenges at a 2015 convocation organized by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Today, Jay Labov, PhD, of the National Academies, and Cathy Middlecamp, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a presenter at the convocation, will present highlights at the American Physiological Society’s Institute on Teaching and Learning Workshop in Madison, Wis.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology wrote in a report in February 2012 that standard laboratory courses in which students carry out classical experiments to recreate established results did not effectively engage STEM students. Instead, the report recommended that STEM education could be improved by replacing laboratory courses with discovery-based experiences in which students designed and conducted research that could discover new knowledge and contribute to the scientific field while learning about the subject area and the nature of the scientific process. In response to the report, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine organized the “Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum” meeting to explore and identify the opportunities, challenges and realities of implementing discovery-based courses.

Labov and Middlecamp will discuss:

  • Emerging best practices for a successful discovery-based research course,
  • Approaches and challenges to making the course available to the entire student body,
  • Ways to ensure access and equitability for all students, and
  • Challenges to evaluating the effectiveness of a program.

“Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum” will take place Tuesday, June 21, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the University CD room of the Madison Concourse Hotel. The full report, “Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum: Report of a Convocation,” is available through the National Academies Press.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The second Institute on Teaching and Learning Workshop will be held June 20–24 in Madison, Wis. To schedule an interview with the conference organizers or presenters, contact the APS Communications Office or 301-634-7209. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.



Science Educators Convene to Discuss What’s Next and New in Teaching Physiology

Released June 20, 2016 - Dozens of undergraduate and professional school physiology educators will attend this workshop-intensive meeting to discuss best practices in physiology education, including: the changing role of students and instructors in today’s classrooms; new teaching strategies that attendees can employ in their own classrooms; new research on student learning behaviors; and challenges of engaging millennial learners.

The Reason Behind Your Group Project Fail

Released June 22, 2016 - Group projects: Love them or hate them, working as a team is a necessary skill (or evil depending on who you ask). Researchers at Wright State University found that their natural science students anecdotally reported poor experiences working on teams. So they explored whether teaching students how to effectively function on teams positively affected learning outcomes and final grades.

Community Colleges Play Essential Role in Physiology Education

Released October 19, 2016 - Despite community colleges serving an important role in the STEM education pipeline, physiology students and faculty at these schools are not getting the same professional development and collaboration opportunities as their counterparts at four-year institutions. Two community college faculty members addressed this disparity in Advances in Physiology Education.

Standardized-Exam Development Approach Improves Classroom Exams

Released June 21, 2016 - Blueprinting may improve consistency of exams in the classroom year to year. A medical school professor discusses how he successfully predicted students’ performance on a first-year medical course exam he developed using blueprinting at the APS Institute on Teaching and Learning Workshop.