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Holt, Emily A.

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Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) courses are undergraduate biology prerequisite courses that cover many topics about human biology, including anatomy, histology, organ systems, and homeostasis. The purpose of the course is to equip students aiming to enter nursing and allied health education programs with an understanding of basic biological principles relevant to human biology and pharmacology. However, these courses have a high incidence of failure, and many students need to retake the course to progress in their competitive academic programs. Students tend to rely on memorization techniques to learn the course content, and given the nature of A&P as a discipline, this can be insufficient to achieve desired learning (i.e., mastery over the course content) and academic (i.e., course grades) outcomes in these courses. Thus, it is vital to identify evidence-based teaching practices and student factors that contribute to academic outcomes in this course. The three projects that compose the scholastic contribution of this dissertation collectively synthesize evidence-based teaching practices in A&P contexts, test how student affect factors (e.g., self-efficacy, science identity, and situational interest) impact student outcomes, and explore the experiences of students taking the class. The first project (Chapter II) is a systematic review that summarizes pedagogical interventions from 111 research articles about how A&P instruction impacts students’ learning outcomes and satisfaction. The second project (Chapter III) uses mixed methods and found that in a sample of 83 introductory A&P iv students, scores on a science identity metric predicted final grade in the course. The qualitative component of Chapter III also identifies emerging allied health identities alongside science identity as driving motivators for students repeating the course. The third project (Chapter IV) examines student experiences with A&P through the lens of transformative experience theory. This exploratory project examines student writing for evidence of students making connections between course content and their everyday lives using a mixed methods approach. Qualitative content analysis and epistemic network analysis reveal that students make salient connections between their interest in the course content, expansion of perception of the course content as relevant to their everyday lives, learning about A&P, and viewing the course content as relevant to their personal lives. In sum, these projects benefit A&P instructors and biology education researchers working to support student outcomes in A&P.


191 pages

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