Trevecca Nazarene University

Science professor initiating national exam for anatomy and physiology

Using an online testing instrument that was developed by colleagues at Trevecca, Chris Farrell, the director of Trevecca's Medical Technology Program and an associate professor of biology, is working very hard to initiate a national exam for anatomy and physiology students. It is a task that fits very nicely with his position as national chairman of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society's (HAPS) testing division.

Farrell said that he became excited about the possibility of a national exam for HAPS after observing the success of his colleagues in Trevecca's Physician Assistant (PA) Program. Dr. Michael Moredock, director of the Graduate Physician Assistant Program and chair of Trevecca's Division of Natural and Applied Sciences, and Scott Hill, a member of the PA faculty, had developed secure online testing for students in the PA Program and had been using it successfully for several years. Farrell says, "I had observed that the PA online testing constituted a strong external evaluation process, and the strength of that process convinced me that the technology could be useful for HAPS."

In 1993 the first HAPS  test was developed. By March 2005 it had been given 7,000 times in 50 different universities. Scott Hill and Chris Farrell adapted the 100 question exam to the QuestionMark© Perception Database used by the PA program, and did a pilot test with students from Trevecca, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and Troy State in Montgomery in May 2005. There were some difficulties but excellent security. An added benefit was the 500 item detailed item analysis that was ready 30 seconds after the completion of the exam.

The detailed item analysis allowed Dr. Farrell to report to the HAPS meeting in St. Louis that strong and weak questions in the exam could automatically be identified. Over 150 schools have requested the exam in the last 3 years, many times in response to accreditation pressures to show external validation of teaching goals.

Two different NSF administrators have encouraged Dr. Farrell and HAPS to seek funding for development of this exam. Work is in progress. Farrell, who has been corresponding with HAPS schools, is excited about the prospects for widespread adoption of this test. He is quick to point out that he owes much to his colleagues who paved the way for this test with their own successful model.