Evaluation of a Three-Step Biophysics Problem-Solving Strategy in a Biophysics and Numeracy Class of Students Recruited from Disadvantaged Communities
Disadvantaged schools in South Africa are characterized by merger resources, a shortage of science equipment and inexperienced science teachers. These factors hinder effective teaching and learning, consequently students’ potential remains untapped. Students from these schools lose out in science oriented careers such as medicine and engineering. In order to correct this inequality the Ministry of Higher Education and Training sponsors one year foundation programs commonly called extended degree programs. Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University runs a foundations course in medicine to cater for the disadvantaged students. Foundation Biophysics and Numeracy is one of the foundation modules taught. This paper reports on an intervention mechanism (a three-step biophysics problem-solving strategy) used to increase throughput in foundation Biophysics and Numeracy module. This study is a retrospective analysis of the three semester tests and course mark for three cohorts 2010, 2012 and 2013 enrolled for Foundation biophysics and Numeracy module. The last two cohorts were exposed to a three-step biophysics problem solving strategy. 44.4% of the students got below the 50% pass mark pre-intervention whilst post intervention 100% passed with 8.8% of them getting above 70% pass mark in 2012. In 2013, 22% got below 50% pre-intervention. Post intervention 4% of students got 49% and 60% got over 70%. Course marks averages of 62%, 76% and 78% were recorded for the 2010; 2013 and 2013 cohorts respectively. A three-step biophysics problem solving strategy improved the quality of pass marks. It also promoted conceptual understanding of biophysics principles.