Unpacking the renal system component of the “structure and function” core concept of physiology by an Australian team

Ben Perry, Melissa Cameron, Matthew B Cooke, Michelle Towstoless, Deanne H. Hryciw, Alan Hayes, Louise Lexis, Kathy Tangalakis, Task Force, Christian Moro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


An Australia-wide consensus was reached on seven core concepts of physiology, one of which was “structure and function” with the descriptor “Structure and function are intrinsically related to all levels of the organism. In all physiological systems, the structure from a microscopic level to an organ level dictates its function.” As a framework for the structure and function core concept, the renal system was unpacked by a team of 5 Australian Physiology educators from different universities with extensive teaching experience into hierarchical levels, with 5 themes and 25 subthemes up to 3 levels deep. Within theme 1, the structures that comprise the renal system were unpacked. Within theme 2, the physiological processes within the nephron such as filtration, reabsorption, and secretion were unpacked. Within theme 3, the processes involved in micturition were unpacked. In theme 4, the structures and processes involved in regulating renal blood flow and glomerular filtration were unpacked; and within theme 5, the role of the kidney in red blood cell production was unpacked. Twenty-one academics rated the difficulty and importance of each theme/subtheme, and results were analyzed using a one-way ANOVA. All identified themes were validated as “essential” to “important”/“moderately important” and rated between “difficult” to “not difficult.” A similar framework consisting of structure, physiological processes, physical processes, and regulation can be used to unpack other body systems. Unpacking of the body systems will provide a list of what students should be taught in curricula across Australian universities and inform assessment and learning activities. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first attempt to unpack and validate the “structure and function” core concept in physiology with all Australian educators. We unpacked the renal system into themes with hierarchical levels, which were validated by an experienced team of Australian physiology educators. Our unpacking of the “structure and function” core concept provides a specific framework for educators to apply this important concept in physiology education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-460
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Advances in Physiology Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023


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