Undergraduate student engagement in an anatomy and physiology course during an interprofessional health education ‘common semester’

Showcase Presenter: Stephen Brown

Courses with authentic content and assessment may increase student engagement, however, this is problematic when students in multiple disciplines are taught together. A course without discipline-specific authenticity may contribute to student disengagement. 

In this study, student engagement was measured by questionnaire in a large introductory course taken by students from a wide range of health disciplines with diverse career aspirations. The structure of the questionnaire was examined using exploratory principal component analysis – this identified four components of engagement: Skills; Emotional; Participation/Interaction; Performance. 

For each student, engagement component scores along with the academic score, were entered in a twostep cluster analysis. Two groups were identified, a ‘low engagement / low achievement group (n=136), and a ‘high engagement / high achievement group (n=281). 

The low engagement / low achievement group comprised 18% nursing, 5% midwifery, 7% paramedicine, 12% physiotherapy, 32% sport & recreation, and 26% standard, whereas the high engagement / high achievement group comprised 21% nursing, 8% midwifery, 10% paramedicine, 18% physiotherapy, 13% sport & recreation, and 30% standard. Skills engagement was the dominant variable in predicting cluster membership, and sport & recreation students scored lower on this variable when compared to all other disciplines. 

It is possible that a perceived lack of content and assessment authenticity was experienced by students in the low engagement / low achievement group, whereas students in the high engagement / high achievement group recognized content authenticity which aligned with their own discipline. 

It is suggested that constructs of course engagement may be useful variables to consider when assessing the authenticity of both teaching and assessment in undergraduate courses.

Attendees at this showcase will be introduced to the constructs of engagement and student’s perception of authenticity within a mixed discipline course. Attendees will be encouraged to consider the complexities of delivering an authentic student experience to diverse career aspirations.

Dr Stephen Brown is a Senior Lecturer in Interprofessional Health Studies, specialising in teaching Human Anatomy and Physiology. Stephen’s research is in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) with an interest in student engagement and students’ experience when entering tertiary education.