The effectiveness of separating theory and practicum as a conduit to learning physiology

Johannes A. Schuijers, Stuart J. McDonald, Brianna L. Julien, Louise A. Lexis, Colleen J. Thomas, Siew Chan, T. Samiric

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Many conventional science courses contain subjects embedded with laboratory-based activities. However, research on the benefits of positioning the practicals within the theory subject or developing them distinctly from the theory is largely absent. This report compared results in a physiology theory subject among three different cohorts of students: those taking the theory subject alone, those taking it concurrent with a physiology practicum subject, and those who previously took the subject when it had practicums embedded within the one subject. The path model shows that students taking both physiology theory and physiology practicum attained a significantly higher result in online tests compared with those whotook the theory subject alone (P < 0.05) and that this translated to a significantly higher result in the end-ofsemester examination. Similarly, students taking both physiology theory and the physiology practicum attained a significantly higher end-examination result compared with those who took the physiology subject in previous years when the practicums were embedded within the theory subject (P < 0.05). In both cases, this increase was largely attained in components thattested critical thinking and deep learning (short theory application questions and extended written questions). We conclude that students undertaking both physiology theory and the physiology practicum most likely performed better in the theory subject due to better problem-solving skills and a more developed understanding of theoretical content. We suggest that consideration be given in all science curricula to the separation of theory and practicum by developing two subjects with clearly defined different learning outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-156
Number of pages4
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Physiology practicum
  • Physiology teaching
  • Physiology theory

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