THE TRIPSE:  A Process-centred Evaluation Exercise for Undergraduate Problem-based Courses in Pharmacology

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P.K. Rangachari
Honours Biology-Pharmacology Programme, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8N 5Z5, Canada.


The TRIPSE (Tri-Partite Problem Solving Exercise)

The TRIPSE is a process-oriented evaluation exercise that I have used in several undergraduate science courses. The exercise attempts to simulate the scientific process.

In Phase 1, students are presented with data derived from an experimental, clinical or field setting. They are given a limited time (30-40 minutes) to provide one or more explanations / hypotheses for the observation made.

In Phase 2, students are asked to choose one of their explanations and design one or more suitable experimental tests within a 30-40 min period. In the epidemiology course, students are asked to provide avenues for further exploration rather than design experimental tests as these are not often feasible.

In Phase 3, students are provided with further information and asked to re-evaluate their original explanations/tests in light of new information. This part is either conducted within the classroom setting or more often as a take-home exercise.

Each phase is graded independently and students are given individual comments. It is emphasised that there are really no unique correct answers but sets of plausible ones varying in sophistication and credibility.

This exercise is a modification of the Triple-Jump exercise that had been used in diverse health professional programmes at McMaster university. The difference is that this is an exercise given to the entire class at the same time and the emphasis is not on seeking information but on using prior knowledge to "solve" new problems. In that sense, the problems deal with areas that have NOT BEEN included in the content of the course so that students are discouraged from memorising particular facts.

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