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Innovation in the Making: Interdisciplinary Research works to Increase Scientific Literacy

Posted by struscott | July 1, 2011

Interdisciplinary Research works to Increase Scientific Literacy

Doctoral student Angela Oki is innovating learning technologies to teach reproductive physiology and health.
Doctoral student Angela Oki is innovating learning technologies to teach reproductive physiology and health.

An interdisciplinary, public-private research project merging reproductive physiology with educational technologies shows promise for use in a wide range of
disciplines. “There is a lot of overlap in the reproductive physiology of humans and animals, so it’s not hard to jump between the two,” said Angela Oki, a WSU doctoral student conducting the research. Using 2-D and 3-D animations, educational modules have been developed to teach various processes associated with reproductive physiology. The video modules are much like chapters in a textbook, taking learners step by step through the information.

In addition to being a full-time graduate student in the WSU Department of Animal Sciences, Oki is also a full-time employee of the Pullman-based publishing company Current Conceptions, Inc. Current Conceptions, the producer of a widely adopted textbook on animal reproductive physiology, collaborated with WSU and other universities to test the learning modules. “I develop educational material in the form of multimedia modules to teach a given concept of reproductive physiology,” Oki said. “I then look at the learning gains of people after they have seen it.”

Oki’s research includes testing the effectiveness of these learning modules in comparison with other common learning scenarios. Around 800 participants were enlisted from universities and medical clinics. The goal of the research is to increase general scientific literacy by explaining reproductive physiological processes, such as birth, to individuals without a science background. “There is a need out there to bust some of the myths associated with conception and other physiological processes,” Oki said.

Oki found that when tested on students in reproductive physiology courses, teaching with the learning modules could be more effective than traditional lectures. Similarly, a study conducted in an OB/GYN office demonstrated that patients understood more from using the learning modules than reading a pamphlet on identical material.

While she is being mentored by faculty in the Department of Animal Sciences, Oki is also collaborating with faculty in WSU’s College of Education on the development of more learning modules. Incorporation of techniques from education and media research contributes to the effectiveness of the modules as teaching and learning tools.

Currently, Oki and her colleagues are developing modules that include lessons on breast feeding and assisted reproduction technologies. In the future, Oki said, “I would like to see these modules used for patient education or continuing education credit programs for nurses and veterinarians.”

By Michelle Burns, WSU CAHNRS MNEC intern