Teaching and Learning Forum 95 [ Contents ]

Multimedia: A paradigm shift in the teaching of the biomechanics of human movement

Chris Kirtley
School of Physiotherapy
Curtin University
In the teaching of para-clinical disciplines, such as physiotherapy and podiatry, there is often a mismatch between the conceptual scientific basis of the discipline and its clinical application. Biomechanics, the study of the motion of the body as governed by the laws of physics, is a central component of these disciplines. However, the subject is often perceived emotively by the student because it highlights, perhaps more than most, the interface between scientific concepts and clinical application.

Introduction of task analysis to biomechanics teaching is expected to improve learning by integrating biomechanical concepts with therapy practice. A novel piece of equipment, the V-scope Motion Monitor, designed for use by high-school physics teachers in class experiments on Newtonian motion, is used to facilitate interactive problem solving. A multmedia package, Biomechanics Toolbox, then provides an exploratory interface with which to encourage transfer of learning between abstract biomechanical concepts and real-world case studies.


Introduction

In the teaching of para-clinical disciplines, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and podiatry, there is often a mismatch between the scientific basis of the discipline and its clinical application. In recent years, there has been an upward movement of these professions, which were formerly taught under an apprentice-like system, into the university tier. With such a move, the need to relate conceptual learning to its practical application has become emphasised.

One such conceptual framework which is accepted as a necessary component of all these disciplines is that of biomechanics, which is the study of the motion of the body as governed by the laws of physics. However, this particular subject is oftern emotive because it highlights, perhaps more than any other, the interface between scientific concepts and clinical application.

This paper and workshop aim at exploring the use of new technology in teaching biomechanics, to encourage interactive learning and transfer of learning from the abstract physical and mathematical concepts into everyday therapy encounters.

Task analysis and concept mapping

In the systems approach of Gagne (1988), traditional topic-based teaching in replaced by task analysis, in which important and necessary jobs (e.g. case studies) are broken down into component objectives. In order to facilitate the introduction of such methods, an infrastructure needs to be set up by a dialogue between educator and colleagues.

In the case being considered, it became clear as a result of this dialogue, that introduction of task analysis to biomechanics teaching would require the development of technology which would facilitate interactive problem solving. This would be expected to enhance integration of the biomechanical concepts with therapy practice. The concept map for a biomechanical understanding of pathological gait, for example (figure 1) reveals the existence of three basic hierarchical levels. The most fundamental of these consists of concepts such as mass, force, inertia etc., which are common to the study of mechanics in general, whilst the middle level consists of the application of these to human movement. The highest level incorporates this understanding of movement into theories of normal and pathological gait. Many of these concepts are very abstract, making interactive learning most appropriate (Mohnsen, et al, 1994).

A novel piece of equipment, the V-scope Motion Monitor (Litek Advanced Systems, Tel Aviv, Israel), was identified as fulfilling this specification of interactivity, since it provides a real-time motion data. It was, in fact, designed for use by physics teachers in class experiments on Newtonian motion. The combination of both commercial and purpose-written software for controlling the V-scope facilitates quick and user-friendly capture of motion and display as a combination of animation and graphs of biomechanical parameters. This enables a total interaction (cognitive, not merely psychomotor) between the student and the concepts being studied.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Concept map for bio-mechanical understanding of pathological gait.

Transfer of learning

Once the key components of the concept map have been studied and learned, a multimedia package, "Gait Toolbox", is then introduced to the students. This contains case studies of patients with a variety of walking disorders. Video, animation and graphs of abstract biomechanical quantities are presented, and access to a database of normal and pathological gaits is encouraged. Novel methods of presenting the data are used, with a common terminology which is at once precise and based soundly in the principles of mechanics, whilst at the same time being familiar to the student.

An evaluation of the use of this new medium and approach will take place during its introduction, and a detailed study of the issues involved in its design is currently underway.

References

Gagne, Robert M. and Briggs, Leslie J. (1988). Principles of Instructional Design. Walter W. Wagner. New York, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 3rd ed.

Mohnsen, Bonnie and Thompson, Carolyn (1994). Teaching biomechanics through interactive laserdiscs. The Computing Teacher, 22(4), 30.

Please cite as: Kirtley, C. (1995). Multimedia: A paradigm shift in the teaching of the biomechanics of human movement. In Summers, L. (Ed), A Focus on Learning, p150-152. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Edith Cowan University, February 1995. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1995/kirtley.html


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