The control of ventilation during exercise: a lesson in critical thinking

Adv Physiol Educ. 2017 Dec 1;41(4):539-547. doi: 10.1152/advan.00086.2017.


Learning the basic competencies of critical thinking are very important in the education of any young scientist, and teachers must be prepared to help students develop a valuable set of analytic tools. In my experience, this is best achieved by encouraging students to study areas with little scientific consensus, such as the control mechanisms of the exercise ventilatory response, as it can allow greater objectivity when evaluating evidence, while also giving students the freedom to think independently and problem solve. In this article, I discuss teaching strategies by which physiology, biomedical science, and sport science students can simultaneously develop their understanding of respiratory control mechanisms and learn to critically analyze evidence thoroughly. This can be best achieved by utilizing both teacher-led and student-led learning environments, the latter of which encourages the development of learner autonomy and independent problem solving. In this article, I also aim to demonstrate a systematic approach of critical assessment that students can be taught, adapt, and apply independently. Among other things, this strategy involves: 1) defining the precise phenomenon in question; 2) understanding what investigations must demonstrate to explain the phenomenon and its underlying mechanisms; 3) evaluating the explanations/mechanisms of the phenomenon and the evidence for them; and 4) forming strategies to produce strong evidence, if none exists.

Keywords: critical thinking; exercise; ventilation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Physiology / education*
  • Problem Solving* / physiology
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology*
  • Thinking / physiology