Course Transformation Work

Integrative Physiology (IPHY) courses 3410 (Anatomy), 3470 (Human Physiology I), and 3480 (Human Physiology II) were selected as part of an over-arching project, Development and implementation of case studies across foundation IPHY curriculum (a continuation of the SEI effort).  This was done as case studies have been shown to be a viable way to improve student learning using an active learning approach and better prepares students for upper division classes, improves critical thinking skills, and helps achieve curricular alignment.  These are the first IPHY courses that majors complete (structured as an in-person lecture).

Course learning goals were developed in collaboration with Science Teaching Fellows of the SEI.  Faculty working groups developed an interrupted case study on Celiac’s disease for the three courses which followed a fictional patient.  Each course emphasized a different aspect of the disease.  Learning goals were revised and defined for each course and student attitudinal surveys and performance on pre- and post-project exams were used to gauge student learning.  The courses featured active learning, backwards designs, clicker questions, and worksheets.

Initial results comparing 3410 to pre-transformed semesters were promising, showing apparent improvement in selected exam questions.  In 3470, assessments were given before and after case study activities with significant learning gains on some concepts.  We found that faculty group meetings were helpful as they provided a venue for course specific discussion and idea exchanges and the collection of student attitude and assessment data which provided insight regarding the transformation effectiveness and helped motivate some faculty to explore newer pedagogies.

Figures (right) – Student opinions regarding the case studies used in the courses.

Faculty and Student Development Programs

Our experience transforming these courses has shown the need to be more inclusive in our approach to case studies.  All faculty involved in working groups seem engaged and eager to be a part of the transformation process.  We intend to continue working with course specific groups; work within the parameters of each faculty member and course; explore the need for further incentives to use and allow these to be guided by learning goals; and work to further assess case studies to show effectiveness in the courses.


Research Highlight

Chart showing letter grade rates by course. The grades are grouped by cohort.

Figure (above) – Initial student attitudinal surveys were positive, with students finding case studies helpful in their learning (given in all three courses).


Dr. Janet Casagrand is a Senior Instructor in the Department of Integrative Physiology. She can be contacted via email at


Dr. Teresa Foley is a Senior Instructor in the Department of Integrative Physiology. She can be contacted via email at



Ruth Heisler is a Senior Instructor and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Affairs in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.  She can be contacted via email at