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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2013 Jun 1;12(2):262-73. doi: 10.1187/cbe.12-08-0129.

Using a physics experiment in a lecture setting to engage biology students with the concepts of Poiseuille's law.

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Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA.


Biology students enrolled in a typical undergraduate physiology course encounter Poiseuille's law, a physics equation that describes the properties governing the flow of blood through the circulation. According to the equation, a small change in vessel radius has an exponential effect on resistance, resulting in a larger than expected change in blood flow. To help engage students in this important concept, we performed a physics experiment as a lecture demonstration to mimic the original research by the 19th-century French scientist. We tested its impact as a research project and found that students who viewed the demonstration reacted very positively and showed an immediate increase in test performance, while the control group was able to independently "catch up" at the fourth week posttest. We further examined whether students' math skills mapped to learning gains. The students with lower math scores who viewed the demonstration had slightly more improvement in test performance than those students who did not view the demonstration. Our data suggest that watching a lecture demonstration may be of even greater benefit to biology students with lower math achievement.

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