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Development of a conceptual assessment to identify misconceptions about active transport

Wednesday 3 July: 5:30pm – 7:00pm, poster session



Dr Nicole Rienke
University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

Dr Mary Kynn
University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

Dr Ann Parkinson
University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia



Physiological process such as membrane transport are core concepts in all physiology curricula. The process of secondary active transport, such as sodium and glucose transport in the kidney, is complex and involves many different components. Pumps, channels and transporter proteins are located in specific spatial arrangements and involve the movement of molecules and concentration gradients. In addition, the timing and sequence of events are crucial in facilitating the reabsorption of sodium and glucose, which, in turn, is important to maintain energy and water homeostasis in the body. Traditionally, descriptions of these processes have been accompanied by 2D images which cannot portray the dynamic 3D nature of the components and events.  This may contribute to the development of student misunderstanding and misconceptions. 

We developed a 20 question diagnostic test (Active Transport Conceptual Assessment – ATCA) to examine student understanding of the concept and to identify common misconceptions.  The ATCA comprises two-tiered multiple choice questions. The first-tier questions require students to identify a key component or process. The second-tier questions follow and require students to justify their answer. We administered the ATCA to 443 first-year Human Physiology students. From analysis of the ATCA responses, we developed a 3D immersive visualisation of the physiology concept of secondary active transport to confront common misconceptions.  Two weeks after experiencing the 3D visualisation, students completed the ATCA again, so we could determine any changes in their understanding.

A total of 338 students completed both pre- and post-tests. There was a significant improvement between the pre (58%) and post test scores (64%; t=8.9; p<0.0001). Question pairs asking about the mechanism and driving force for glucose reabsorption showed the greatest improvement (improvement of 24% and 22% respectively). However, misconceptions around the role of cellular energy and protein biochemistry in cells were more difficult to shift.


Presentation topic

Poster session

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