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Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2010 Mar;38(2):65-9. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20330.

Understanding fatty acid metabolism through an active learning approach.

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  • 1Centro de Biologia Celular, Universidade de Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal; Secção Autónoma de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade de Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal.


A multi-method active learning approach (MALA) was implemented in the Medical Biochemistry teaching unit of the Biomedical Sciences degree at the University of Aveiro, using problem-based learning as the main learning approach. In this type of learning strategy, students are involved beyond the mere exercise of being taught by listening. Less emphasis is placed on transmitting information and the focus is shifted toward developing higher order thinking (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation). However, MALA should always involve clearly identified objectives and well-defined targets. Understanding fatty acid metabolism was one of the proposed goals of the Medical Biochemistry unit. To this end, students were challenged with a variety of learning strategies to develop skills associated with group conflict resolution, critical thinking, information access, and retrieval, as well as oral and written communication skills. Overall, students and learning facilitators were highly motivated by the diversity of learning activities, particularly due to the emphasis on correlating theoretical knowledge with human health and disease. As a quality control exercise, the students were asked to answer a questionnaire on their evaluation of the whole teaching/learning experience. Our initial analysis of the learning outcomes permits us to conclude that the approach undertaken yields results that surpass the traditional teaching methods.

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