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Context & Problem

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The course that is the focus of my research is an entry level reproductive physiology course that is:

  • an upper level elective class
  • delivered once a year to predominantly junior and senior undergraduates
  • mostly Animal Science majors who are Pre-Vet emphasis + Pre-Med, Psychology, Conservation Bio
  • class size ranges from 20-40 students


A fundamental concept in physiology is the regulation of reproduction via the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.

  • this is a concept that can be challenging for the students to learn
  • they can usually(?) remember  the components of the axis, the key hormones that each component secretes
  • but, they often have difficulty and lack confidence in their understanding of the functioning of each component and how they interact with and regulate each other
  • they cannot apply this concept to a real-life problem


Does the use of specialized case studies, incorporating diagnostics and bioethics, improve the ability of a student to:

  • understand the concept of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG) ?
  • apply this concept to the pathophysiology of reproductive disorders/diseases ?



  • Important fundamental concept of physiology
  • Lack of work dealing with learning endocrine concepts and the potential value of case-based teaching in undergraduate physiology courses
    • some studies with medical school or pharmacy school curriculum improvement (Hudson et al 2001; Zimmerman & Eckert 2009)
  • Existing studies lack the rigorous assessment that is necessary to conclude that this approach truly enhances student learning (Lundeberg & Yadav 2006 a, b)



Skills I wish students to have at the end of my course:

  • MASTERY of the critical facts
  • UNDERSTANDING of the complex function and regulation of reproduction (e.g. synthesis of facts into broader concepts)
  • APPLICATION of the concepts to real-life situations that represent the complexities of the connections between science and socioeconomic issues (e.g. bioethics)

Experimental design and methodology will test the effectiveness of case studies to help the students progress from a mastery of the 'facts' of the HPG, synthesizing these facts into the concept and utilizing this concept to problem-solve diagnostics, etiology and bioethical issues of selected reproductive disorders. 

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Viewing 3 of 3 comments: view all
great idea - case studies make it so much clearer to understand these processes (yay for physiology!)
Posted 13:43, 15 Jul 2011
Do you think adding ethics to the scientific case complicates assessment and/or working through the case for the students?
Posted 13:46, 15 Jul 2011
Hi - I tried to capture the highlights of your talk + questions/comments - reproductive endocrinology, 20-40 students as junior/seniors…HPG axis, can do lower levels at Blooms (what hormones, what makes a hormone) but cannot do regulation/feedback/application to other problems…use of specialized case studies (with diagnostics and case studies) improve student learning…not much literature in undergrad – more for curricular development in med/pharm schools, without rigorous assessment…how are you going to rigorously assess the case study learning? Quick cases – with short pre/post-test…and then get them talking through what the organs do if function is normal vs. pathological, and a final case with bioethics…regular lecture exams to imbed the assessment + Bloom your exam questions…
Posted 14:27, 15 Jul 2011
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