Team-based, problem-solving exercises using studies of diarrhea and oral rehydration encourage students to integrate knowledge of systems physiology

Philip D Langton, Frances M MacMillan, Zoe J Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


We describe an inquiry activity that aims to develop students’ ability to interpret findings that span whole body systems and so encourage the integration of knowledge. The scenario we choose was the physiological challenge posed by diarrhea and the physiological mechanisms that underpin oral rehydration therapy. Before the staff-facilitated inquiry activity, students engage with an online information resource and complete a formative, but mandatory, prelaboratory quiz. These tasks encourage students to develop some mastery of the relevant physiology before the timetabled inquiry activity. The 3-h inquiry activity is driven by a paper workbook containing data from published studies, mainly from veterinary physiology, of the various consequences of diarrhea. Figures from published data are arranged so that, initially, the impact of dehydration on a single system (the cardiovascular system) could be appreciated. Integration with other systems (respiratory and renal systems) is then introduced progressively through the activity. The exercise is designed as a team-based inquiry activity that emphasizes the value of discussion to identify appropriate features for interpretation of the data. Students are obliged to complete a postlaboratory quiz within 5 days of the inquiry activity, serving to consolidate the students’ learning and provide staff with feedback on the attainment of intended learning outcomes. Marks from formative pre- and postlaboratory quizzes typically have a median mark in excess of 80% (pass mark is 50%), and qualitative feedback suggests that the majority of students recognized the value of the activity, despite simultaneously reporting that it was intellectually demanding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-258
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number2
Early online date7 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. the American Physiological Society. All Rights Reserved.


  • active learning
  • gastrointestinal
  • problem solving
  • systems physiology
  • team-based learning


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