Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice

Document Type



In August 1767 King Louis XV of France appointed Madame du Coudray, a 52-year-old midwife, to teach midwifery “throughout the whole extent of the Realm.” In so doing he acknowledged the “science and experience” and “high degree of perfection” that she had obtained in midwifery. Over the next 20 years Madame du Coudray traveled throughout France teaching midwifery to illiterate peasant women. It is estimated that she taught over 4,000 students. How did she teach midwifery to these women who had no previous experience with science? Could modern biology educators learn from her methods? This case study addressed these questions by studying her tools: a set of 26 teaching illustrations, a mannequin which served as an obstetric simulator, and a manual which contained her lectures. The illustrations were analyzed using Tufte’s theory of graphic design. This analysis revealed that they are excellent examples of Tufte-style graphic illustrations. They minimize chartjunk while maximizing data ink. They use color appropriately. They are surprisingly truthful according to modern medical standards, and they use the principle of small multiples to teach the process of childbirth. The features of the mannequin were studied for their potential use for active learning and brain-based learning. This study revealed that the mannequin has a good fidelity, particularly for the eighteenth-century, and could have easily been used for active learning and brain-based learning. The manual was content analyzed for teaching methods. This study revealed that Madame du Coudray’s method of teaching relied heavily on applications to real-world situations. It also showed that she taught her students their social and cultural responsibilities. In "Vision and Change: A Call for Action", the AAAS recommends that biology students in the twenty-first century should have experience with simulation and understand the role of science in society. It appears that modern biology instructors could learn much from Madame du Coudray.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Wandersee, James



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Education Commons