Traditionally, pathophysiology is taught via lecture; however, when students are active participants in the learning process, they retain and understand more,1 think independently, participate actively, express themselves freely,2 and feel connected to the material and each other, creating a sense of community.3 I felt that it was critical to supplement my endocrine pathophysiology lecture with a creative, collaborative teaching strategy.
The Endocrine Project
The first 4 of 6 classroom hours for first-semester junior year students are given by lecture. The active learning project is done in the last 2 hours. The objective of the assignment is to describe alterations in the function of the endocrine system and explain clinical manifestations resulting from endocrine system dysfunction. Divided into groups of 6 to 7, students are randomly assigned 1 of the 7 endocrine glands. Students are to make a convincing argument as to why their assigned gland is the most important gland in the body. This argument must include the following:
* Overview of the normal gland function, including hormones produced by the gland and the action of these hormones in the body
* A description of gland hypofunction and hyperfunction, clinical manifestations, and common causes of dysfunction
Students are encouraged to be creative when choosing the method by which to present their argument, including skits, games, role plays, and others. With 15 minutes to present their argument, students are awarded 20 points for the project: 10 points for creativity and 10 points for content. The presentations were highly creative, humorous, and informative. Examples included a funeral for the thyroid gland in which both Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism spoke at the eulogy, a court case in which the pancreas was on trial, and a mother taking her children to see Santa Claus with each of them asking for the adrenal gland for Christmas. Other examples included America's Next Top Gland and The Dating Game. All but 2 of 45 participating students rated the project as helpful and enjoyable. Written comments included the following: "I am a visual learner and this project really helped the information stick in my head" and "Not only did this project really help you understand the glands, but it also helped you bond with your classmates. I loved it!"
As the move from a teaching paradigm to a learning paradigm continues, the faculty role is changing from knowledge disseminator to knowledge facilitator.4 As facilitator, faculty must design teaching strategies that encourage active student participation. Creative and collaborative strategies such as the endocrine system project engage students in the learning process and result in positive experiences for both students and faculty.