Faculty A-Z

Penelope Hansen

Professor of Physiology B.Sc., M.S. Akron, Ph.D. Memorial

Professor Emeritus Physiology

t:777-6446; f:777-6576


Division of BioMedical Sciences Faculty of Medicine Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s, NL, Canada A1B 3V6

Current research and development activities:

Medicine’s Hidden Curriculum: Influences on Students’ Career Choices

Collaborators: Drs. Cheri Bethune, Marshall Godwin, and Katrina Hurley, and Ms. Diana Deacon and Allison Kirby

Aim: to explore aspects of the hidden curriculum that influence medical students’ choice of career.

Summary of work: We designed an open-ended questionnaire that four cohorts of students completed five times during medical school, from the first week to the last. Each time students noted whether they were considering or not considering each of 14 medical and surgical specialties and described any relevant influences. At the end of medical school, student volunteers participated in focus groups that probed these influences. We coded questionnaire responses and focus group transcripts and grouped them into fifteen themes, including critical incidents, formal curriculum, passion for career, prestige of specialty, teacher influence, “bad mouthing”, nature of work, career counseling, and fit with typical colleagues. The importance of the hidden curriculum was evident in each of these themes.

Conclusions: The hidden curriculum is a strong and pervasive influence on our students’ career choices. Some aspects influenced students to choose a specialty, while others led them to decide against a specialty. We conclude that revealing the hidden curriculum can help medical schools to design their formal curricula and medical educators to avoid unintentional negative influences. In turn, these changes will help students optimize their career decisions.

Development of online formative assessment for an undergraduate human physiology course: can faculty judge the cognitive skill level and predict difficulty of questions?

Collaborator: Dr. Jonathan Kibble

Abstract: The teaching faculty has decided to implement formative assessment in our Human Physiology (MED310A&B) course, in response to recent student evaluations. Our goal is to create a database of multiple-choice questions that test a range of cognitive skills, consistent with stated course goals. We also aim to produce formative assessment with good predictive validity in terms of outcomes on summative assessments. This proposal describes subjective and objective methods of question classification that will be applied, in an effort to determine the range of cognitive skills and question difficulty in our new database. Comparison of our classification methods with assessment outcomes may define useful general methods for creating valid and reliable question banks when prior information about statistical question history is not available. The results will also help us to estimate the predictive validity of our formative assessments. This will contribute to general knowledge about the value of formative assessment. We will use regular online quizzes to deliver formative assessment and will survey students to learn which attributes of online quiz presentation are most desirable.

Selected publications on medical education:

Bethune, C., Hansen, P.A., Deacon, D., Hurley, K., Kirby, A. and M. Godwin. Family Medicine as a career option: students’ changing attitudes during medical school. Can. Fam. Physician, 53:880-885, 2007

Kibble, J., Hansen, P.A. and L. Nelson. Use of modified SOAP notes and peer-led small group discussion in a medical physiology course. Adv. Physiol. Educ. 30:230-236, 2006

Silverthorn, D.U. and P.A. Hansen. “Integrative physiology in curriculum design” in Integrative Physiology: Physiology in the Age of Genomics and Proteomics. W. Walz, ed. Human Press:NJ, 2005

Hansen, P.A. Physiology’s recondite curriculum. Adv. Physiol. Educ. 26:139-145, 2002

Hansen, P.A. Physiology: the basic science of health. Clin. Invest. Med. 23:55-56, 2000

Fincher, R., Simpson, D., Mennin, S., Rosenfeld, G., Rothman, A., McGrew, M., Hansen, P., Mazmanian, P. and J. Turnbull. Scholarship and teaching: an imperative for the new millennium. Acad. Med. 75:887-894, 2000

Charlin, B., Mann, K. and P. Hansen. The many faces of problem-based learning: a framework for understanding and comparison. Medical Teacher. 20:323-330, 1998

Hansen, P.A. and K.B. Roberts. Physiology’s hidden curriculum. News Physiol. Sci. 7:41-44, 1992

Selected invited presentations:

Revealing the hidden curriculum of PBL, 6th Asia-Pacific Conference on Problem-based Learning, Tokyo, May 28, 2006

How to be a better PBL facilitator, Kinki University School of Medicine, Osakasayama, Japan, May 30, 2006

Research in physiology education: our classrooms are our laboratories, XIX Ann. Meeting of the Chilean Physiological Society, Santiago, Nov. 7, 2005

Finding and revealing your hidden curriculum, University of Santiago, Chile, Nov. 10, 2005

The many faces of problem-based learning: a framework for integrative physiology education, Experimental Biology Annual Meeting, April 2005