UNDERGRADUATE’S UNDERSTANDING OF GENERAL MODELS AND RENAL PHYSIOLOGY.  Mary Pat Wenderoth1, William Cliff2, and Joel Michael3.  1Zoology Dept., Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, 2Dept. Biology, Niagara University, Lewiston, NY 14109, 3Dept. of Physiology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL 60612.
    We have extended our earlier work on conceptual difficulties and the role of general models in aiding student understanding to the area of renal physiology.  A web-base survey was administered to 146 students after completion of renal physiology.  The survey included three sets of questions that tested the student’s ability to apply general models (GM) to situations in everyday life and in renal physiology.  The majority of students (78-86%) correctly applied the GM to both everyday situations and renal situations, indicting that understanding general models may help students solve conceptual problems in renal physiology.  In 2 of the 3 question sets, the majority of students who answered the everyday problem incorrectly, nevertheless answered the renal question correctly.  On the third question set, 25% of students could not correctly apply the concept of mass balance (as related to solute and solvents) to an everyday situation and a majority (60%) could not answer the matched renal question correctly.  The written explanations indicated that many of these students fail to see the distinction between concentration and total amount of a solute.  Overall, the majority of students can successfully apply GM to  problems in everyday life and renal physiology after instruction.  However, there is a significant number of students who have difficulty with the concept of mass balance as applied to solution chemistry.  This misunderstanding will be detrimental to their ability to master the principles of solute transport, a concept fundamental to physiology.  (Supported by NSF REC 9909411)
FASEB J. 17(4):A383, 2003.
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