The 2022 American Physiological Society (APS) Institute on Teaching and Learning (ITL) was held at the Madison Concourse Hotel in Wisconsin last month, where attendees were greeted by a friendly and colorful badger. ITL offered a multitude of lectures and workshops on effective teaching practices given by a variety of experts.
The first workshop of the conference was hosted by the Monkey Business Institute. Workshop leaders gathered all conference attendees into a large circle, where we engaged in an inclusive ice breaker activity entitled “Anyone who…” It got a little crazy when one participant shouted, “Anyone who is wearing shoes!” and we all got up and ran to an empty chair.
On Tuesday evening, APS President Dee Silverthorn, PhD, FAPS, gave the keynote lecture. She emphasized the importance of adapting to change given the evolution of the college experience. Silverthorn spoke eloquently of her own college experience in the 1970s, complete with punch cards and slide rules, and detailed the ever-changing educational landscape due to advances in technology. She also engaged the audience to participate in a few introductory poll questions, which set a positive tone for the entire conference.
Kayon Murry-Johnson, PhD, and Katelyn Cooper gave plenary talks on Wednesday. Murray-Johnson detailed a framework for building an inclusive teaching environment by focusing on duality, intentionality and sustainability. Cooper echoed these sentiments in her talk, exploring methods to identify inequities and the potential underlying mechanisms of those inequities. She also warned that active learning can be a double-edged sword, with increased opportunities for both success and failure. Both talks emphasized the importance of a student’s sense of belonging to promote learning.
There was also a variety of workshops offered on Wednesday. Some standout moments included a workshop on building trust between students and teachers, given by Josef Brandauer, PhD. Attendees created a word cloud that described what makes a classroom feel safe to generate trust.
We got to use some of the improv skills we learned from the previous day’s Monkey Business Workshop when using dramatization to illustrate complicated physiological concepts in a delightful workshop hosted by Helena Carvalho, PhD, Patricia Halpin PhD, and Elke Scholz-Morris, PhD. We broke into three groups and could choose one concept to illustrate, including steroid hormone signaling and specificity, the actin-myosin power stroke and glucose transport. In addition, the plenary speakers gave more in-depth workshops providing hands-on tools for participants.
After a full day of talks and workshops, if our energy levels were running low, the poster session had the solution: sweet and savory snacks and stimulating intellectual conversation.
Jessica Fry, PhD, augmented her poster with examples of 3D-printed macromolecules designed by her students. Like many of the other speakers and presenters, Fry also provided a QR code on her poster that linked to a trove of related materials, illustrating the collaborative atmosphere of the meeting.
In addition to fascinating findings on educational research, attendees got drink tickets and bingo cards at the poster sessions. We competed to see who could gather the most stickers, given out by poster presenters, to win prizes.
The bingo game helped stimulate conversations and interactions. Erin Bruce, PhD, won second place on Wednesday night, earning an APS branded organizer.
Amanda Jungels, PhD, discussed the need for antiracist practices in pedagogy, superseding multicultural or inclusive practices in her plenary talk on Thursday. She emphasized the importance of challenging the hidden curriculum that functions to assimilate students into dominant cultural values. Lisa Corwin, PhD, gave the afternoon plenary talk, discussing the merits of failure in a STEM classroom setting. She presented her primary research on the benefits of course-based undergraduate research experiences to answer novel research questions and how failure can be used as a learning opportunity that also helps build scientific resilience.
On Friday, Jeff Schinske gave the final plenary session. He focused on the classroom environment, specifically “Instructor Talk,” meaning everything said by an instructor in the classroom that is not content or announcement-related. His work demonstrated the importance of deliberate instructor talk to create an inclusive learning environment.
Credit: Victoria Halperin Kuhns
Schinske gave the final workshop, where he instructed us to use what is around us to create a mobile. Unbeknownst to the us, resources for mobile construction were distributed unevenly throughout the room, and it was enlightening to see what each group came up with using the many or few resources around them. It was an illuminating illustration of privilege or lack thereof, and brought into focus the question of “who has access to the resource bag?”
The 2022 ITL was the best attended yet, with the largest contingent of trainees to date. Hopefully this conference continues to grow and provide enlightening new paths and tools for educators. Thanks to the organizing committee for an exciting and educational experience! I hope to see you all in 2024 at the next ITL!
Coming August 2022! The Center for Physiology Education will be a destination where physiology educators and researchers can access exceptional curricular, pedagogical and career development resources and support. Developed by APS members, this community of excellence focuses on inspiring the next generation of scientists. New content will be added regularly. Join us to collaborate, engage and learn. Learn more and sign up for announcements about new resources and volunteer opportunities.
Victoria Halperin Kuhns, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her research focus is renal physiology, specifically looking at sex differences in renal transport with an emphasis on uric acid handling.