Helping undergraduates repair faulty mental models in the student laboratory

Harold I. Modell, Joel A. Michael, Tom Adamson, Jack Goldberg, Barbara A Horwitz, David S. Bruce, Margaret L. Hudson, Shirley A. Whitescarver, Stephen Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Over half of the undergraduate students entering physiology hold a misconception concerning how breathing pattern changes when minute ventilation increases. Repair of this misconception was used as a measure to compare the impact of three student laboratory protocols on learning by 696 undergraduate students at 5 institutions. Students were tested for the presence of the misconception before and after performing a laboratory activity in which they measured the effect of exercise on tidal volume and breathing frequency. The first protocol followed a traditional written "observe and record" ("cookbook") format. In the second treatment group, a written protocol asked students to complete a prediction table before running the experiment ("predictor" protocol). Students in the third treatment group were given the written "predictor" protocol but were also required to verbalize their predictions before running the experiment ("instructor intervention" protocol). In each of the three groups, the number of students whose performance improved on the posttest was greater than the number of students who performed less well on the posttest (P < 0.001). Thus the laboratory protocols helped students correct the misconception. However, the remediation rate for students in the "instructor intervention" group was more than twice that observed for the other treatment groups (P < 0.001). The results indicate that laboratory instruction is more effective when students verbalize predictions from their mental models than when they only "discover" the outcome of the experiment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-90
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Advances in Physiology Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Active learning
  • Misconceptions
  • Respiratory physiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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