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Concept: Education


Clinical anecdote suggests that rates of eating disorders (ED) vary between schools. Given their high prevalence and mortality, understanding risk factors is important. We hypothesised that rates of ED would vary between schools, and that school proportion of female students and proportion of parents with post-high school education would be associated with ED, after accounting for individual characteristics.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Medical statistics, Education, High school, School, Student, Teacher, History of education


The existence of ‘Learning Styles’ is a common ‘neuromyth’, and their use in all forms of education has been thoroughly and repeatedly discredited in the research literature. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that their use remains widespread. This perspective article is an attempt to understand if and why the myth of Learning Styles persists. I have done this by analyzing the current research literature to capture the picture that an educator would encounter were they to search for “Learning Styles” with the intent of determining whether the research evidence supported their use. The overwhelming majority (89%) of recent research papers, listed in the ERIC and PubMed research databases, implicitly or directly endorse the use of Learning Styles in Higher Education. These papers are dominated by the VAK and Kolb Learning Styles inventories. These presence of these papers in the pedagogical literature demonstrates that an educator, attempting to take an evidence-based approach to education, would be presented with a strong yet misleading message that the use of Learning Styles is endorsed by the current research literature. This has potentially negative consequences for students and for the field of education research.

Concepts: Education, Academic publishing, Educational psychology, Higher education, Teacher, Evidence, Anecdotal evidence, Learning styles


Taxonomic details of diversity are an essential scaffolding for biology education, yet outdated methods for teaching the tree of life (TOL), as implied by textbook content and usage, are still commonly employed. Here, we show that the traditional approach only vaguely represents evolutionary relationships, fails to denote major events in the history of life, and relies heavily on memorizing near-meaningless taxonomic ranks. Conversely, a clade-based strategy-focused on common ancestry, monophyletic groups, and derived functional traits-is explicitly based on Darwin’s “descent with modification,” provides students with a rational system for organizing the details of biodiversity, and readily lends itself to active learning techniques. We advocate for a phylogenetic classification that mirrors the TOL, a pedagogical format of increasingly complex but always hierarchical presentations, and the adoption of active learning technologies and tactics.

Concepts: Evolution, Life, Species, Education, Phylogenetic tree, Phylogenetics, Cladistics, Charles Darwin


Online learning initiatives over the past decade have become increasingly comprehensive in their selection of courses and sophisticated in their presentation, culminating in the recent announcement of a number of consortium and startup activities that promise to make a university education on the internet, free of charge, a real possibility. At this pivotal moment it is appropriate to explore the potential for obtaining comprehensive bioinformatics training with currently existing free video resources. This article presents such a bioinformatics curriculum in the form of a virtual course catalog, together with editorial commentary, and an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, and likely future directions for open online learning in this field.

Concepts: Education, Educational psychology, College, Internet, Course, Curricula, Course catalog


Since 2010, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s (EMBL) Heidelberg laboratory and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have jointly run bioinformatics training courses developed specifically for secondary school science teachers within Europe and EMBL member states. These courses focus on introducing bioinformatics, databases, and data-intensive biology, allowing participants to explore resources and providing classroom-ready materials to support them in sharing this new knowledge with their students. In this article, we chart our progress made in creating and running three bioinformatics training courses, including how the course resources are received by participants and how these, and bioinformatics in general, are subsequently used in the classroom. We assess the strengths and challenges of our approach, and share what we have learned through our interactions with European science teachers.

Concepts: DNA, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Education, European Bioinformatics Institute, Malta, Italy, European Molecular Biology Laboratory


Most American colleges and universities offer gateway biology courses to meet the needs of three undergraduate audiences: biology and related science majors, many of whom will become biomedical researchers; premedical students meeting medical school requirements and preparing for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT); and students completing general education (GE) graduation requirements. Biology textbooks for these three audiences present a topic scope and sequence that correlates with the topic scope and importance ratings of the biology content specifications for the MCAT regardless of the intended audience. Texts for “nonmajors,” GE courses appear derived directly from their publisher’s majors text. Topic scope and sequence of GE texts reflect those of “their” majors text and, indirectly, the MCAT. MCAT term density of GE texts equals or exceeds that of their corresponding majors text. Most American universities require a GE curriculum to promote a core level of academic understanding among their graduates. This includes civic scientific literacy, recognized as an essential competence for the development of public policies in an increasingly scientific and technological world. Deriving GE biology and related science texts from majors texts designed to meet very different learning objectives may defeat the scientific literacy goals of most schools' GE curricula.

Concepts: Medicine, Education, University, Anatomy, Medical school, College, Curriculum, Association of American Medical Colleges


BACKGROUND: Preparing medical students for the takeover or the start-up of a medical practice is an important challenge in Germany today. Therefore, this paper presents a computer-aided serious game (eMedOffice) developed and currently in use at the RWTH Aachen University Medical School. The game is part of the attempt to teach medical students the organizational and conceptual basics of the medical practice of a general practitioner in a problem-based learning environment. This paper introduces methods and concepts used to develop the serious game and describes the results of an evaluation of the game’s application in curricular courses at the Medical School. RESULTS: Results of the conducted evaluation gave evidence of a positive learning effect of the serious game. Educational supervisors observed strong collaboration among the players inspired by the competitive gaming aspects. In addition, an increase in willingness to learn and the exploration of new self-invented ideas were observed and valuable proposals for further prospective enhancements were elicited. A statistical analysis of the results of an evaluation provided a clear indication of the positive learning effect of the game. A usability questionnaire survey revealed a very good overall score of 4.07 (5=best, 1=worst). CONCLUSIONS: We consider web-based, collaborative serious games to be a promising means of improving medical education. The insights gained by the implementation of eMedOffice will promote the future development of more effective serious games for integration into curricular courses of the RWTH Aachen University Medical School.

Concepts: Education, University, RWTH Aachen University, RWTH Aachen, Aachen


BACKGROUND: Various problems concerning the introduction of personal health records in everyday healthcare practice are reported to be associated with physicians' unfamiliarity with systematic means of electronically collecting health information about their patients (e.g. electronic health records - EHRs). Such barriers may further prevent the role physicians have in their patient encounters and the influence they can have in accelerating and diffusing personal health records (PHRs) to the patient community. One way to address these problems is through medical education on PHRs in the context of EHR activities within the undergraduate medical curriculum and the medical informatics courses in specific. In this paper, the development of an educational PHR activity based on Google Health is reported. Moreover, student responses on PHR’s use and utility are collected and presented. The collected responses are then modelled to relate the satisfaction level of students in such a setting to the estimation about their attitude towards PHRs in the future. METHODS: The study was conducted by designing an educational scenario about PHRs, which consisted of student instruction on Google Health as a model PHR and followed the guidelines of a protocol that was constructed for this purpose. This scenario was applied to a sample of 338 first-year undergraduate medical students. A questionnaire was distributed to each one of them in order to obtain Likert-like scale data on the sample’s response with respect to the PHR that was used; the data were then further analysed descriptively and in terms of a regression analysis to model hypothesised correlations. RESULTS: Students displayed, in general, satisfaction about the core PHR functions they used and they were optimistic about using them in the future, as they evaluated quite high up the level of their utility. The aspect they valued most in the PHR was its main role as a record-keeping tool, while their main concern was related to the negative effect their own opinion might have on the use of PHRs by patients. Finally, the estimate of their future attitudes towards PHR integration was found positively dependent of the level of PHR satisfaction that they gained through their experience (rho = 0.524, p <0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that students support PHRs as medical record keeping helpers and perceive them as beneficial to healthcare. They also underline the importance of achieving good educational experiences in improving PHR perspectives inside such educational activities. Further research is obviously needed to establish the relative long-term effect of education to other methods of exposing future physicians to PHRs.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Education, Physician, Electronic health record, Health informatics, Medical informatics, Personal health record


BACKGROUND: Problem-based learning (PBL) has become the most significant innovation in medical education of the past 40 years. In contrast to exam-centred, lecture-based conventional curricula, PBL is a comprehensive curricular strategy that fosters student-centred learning and the skills desired in physicians. The rapid spread of PBL has produced many variants. One of the most common is ‘hybrid PBL’ where conventional teaching methods are implemented alongside PBL. This paper contends that the mixing of these two opposing educational philosophies can undermine PBL and nullify its positive benefits. Schools using hybrid PBL and lacking medical education expertise may end up with a dysfunctional curriculum worse off than the traditional approach. DISCUSSION: For hybrid PBL schools with a dysfunctional curriculum, standard PBL is a cost-feasible option that confers the benefits of the PBL approach. This paper describes the signs of a dysfunctional PBL curriculum to aid hybrid PBL schools in recognising curricular breakdown. Next it discusses alternative curricular strategies and costs associated with PBL. It then details the four critical factors for successful conversion to standard PBL: dealing with staff resistance, understanding the role of lectures, adequate time for preparation and support from the administrative leadership. SUMMARY: Hybrid PBL curricula without oversight by staff with medical education expertise can degenerate into dysfunctional curricula inferior even to the traditional approach from which PBL emerged. Such schools should inspect their curriculum periodically for signs of dysfunction to enable timely corrective action. A decision to convert fully to standard PBL is cost feasible but will require time, expertise and commitment which is only sustainable with supportive leadership.

Concepts: Education, Physician, Educational psychology, College, School, Curriculum, Curricula, Educational philosophy


BACKGROUND: Educational computer games are examples of computer-assisted learning objects, representing an educational strategy of growing interest. Given the changes in the digital world over the last decades, students of the current generation expect technology to be used in advancing their learning requiring a need to change traditional passive learning methodologies to an active multisensory experimental learning methodology. The objective of this study was to compare a computer game-based learning method with a traditional learning method, regarding learning gains and knowledge retention, as means of teaching head and neck Anatomy and Physiology to Speech-Language and Hearing pathology undergraduate students. METHODS: Students were randomized to participate to one of the learning methods and the data analyst was blinded to which method of learning the students had received. Students' prior knowledge (i.e. before undergoing the learning method), short-term knowledge retention and long-term knowledge retention (i.e. six months after undergoing the learning method) were assessed with a multiple choice questionnaire. Students' performance was compared considering the three moments of assessment for both for the mean total score and for separated mean scores for Anatomy questions and for Physiology questions. RESULTS: Students that received the game-based method performed better in the pos-test assessment only when considering the Anatomy questions section. Students that received the traditional lecture performed better in both post-test and long-term post-test when considering the Anatomy and Physiology questions. CONCLUSIONS: The game-based learning method is comparable to the traditional learning method in general and in short-term gains, while the traditional lecture still seems to be more effective to improve students' short and long-term knowledge retention.

Concepts: Scientific method, Head and neck anatomy, Biology, Education, Anatomy, Learning, Human anatomy, Methodology