HAPS Web 14- The Histology Challenge

15 Dec
An archived imaged from an old histology challenge...

An archived imaged from an old histology challenge…

The HAPS Histology challenge, a fantastic benefit of  HAPS membership, was a the subject in an article on page 23 of the HAPS-EDucator’s Winter 2015 edition.  The abstract of the article states:

(The Histology Challenge) presents actual patient cases, in the form of photomicrographs of biopsy or surgical specimens, along with a “live” online discussion. Each case includes a series of questions designed to guide readers through the process of interpreting the photomicrographs, beginning with basic histology and progressing through the process of diagnosing the case. In this article, we review the history of the Histology Challenge, describe how it works, and describe some sample cases, to illustrate how they reinforce basic histology and introduce clinical applications. This article will also include suggestions for how these Histology Challenges can be used in A & P courses, and ways in which interested instructors can participate both in the online discussions and in production of future cases. 

The histology challenge serves many valuable functions for HAPSters and their students.  Some instructors use the challenge to beef up their own histology skills.  Others use the challenge to provide hands-on experiences for their students!  Either way, the challenge is a stimulating resource for HAPSters and their students.  So check out the Winter 2015 HAPS-EDucator and learn more about how you can take advantage of this fantastic benefit of being a HAPS member.

New Semester Resolutions

10 Dec

Okay, it’s that time in the semester when I have to force myself to focus on the positive – not on the desperate pleas for just half a point, or the snarky comments that I don’t know how to teach.

So, here is my list of New Semester Resolutions. I hope to actually keep these resolutions (unlike the ones I’ll make on Dec. 31).

1. I will make my course policies crystal clear. This will mean reading, and re-reading how I have the policies stated so they can’t be misinterpreted. Who knew that calling an assignment “practice” and including a message that “this is not for a grade” does not clearly state that completing the assignment is not mandatory? Seriously, it’s important to know that students don’t always read sentences the way we meant them to, and it’s just as important to write course policies clearly as it is to word-smith our test questions.

2. I will provide more small-stakes practice assignments. I will, of course, make sure that if they are mandatory, I will be quite explicit about that fact. My plan, only partially formed, is to have daily assignments (online, auto-graded) that are available only for 24 hours, to encourage students to check in online every day and recharge their content familiarity. I’ll drop enough of them to not penalize students who can’t get online every day (and to reduce complaints that I have to respond to). I’ll make them comprehensive, to help students review and rehearse the quickly-accumulating load of anatomical terms and physiological concepts.

3. I will post more short videos. Students apparently like to know that I am out here, telling them what they have to know, and apparently, sending emails and posting text announcements isn’t as effective as posting videos, according to course-end feedback. Teaching is a particularly human endeavor, so anything I can do to enhance that human contact will add intrinsic value to my online course communications, even for my face-to-face courses.

4. I will provide more choices in what students can complete for a grade. According to my course-end survey, the most valuable and popular course assignment is the discussion. Except that in the same survey, discussion is the least effective and least valuable assignment. Ditto for every other course assignment category. So, providing choices and allowing students to choose the type of assignment that resonates with them will be more likely to meet their needs. I’ve read recently that allowing student choice in assignment type increases engagement and satisfaction and can improve student outcomes.

5. I will provide feedback on student mastery. According to some of my students, my standards are unrealistically high and I expect too much out of them. This, from students who don’t answer the simple, direct questions I ask, and skip the easy and/or optional assignments. But, I can at least let them know whether the work they turn in meets standard expectations of college-level work. This is an opportunity to use the HAPS Outcomes, so students know it’s not just me that expects them to know this stuff.

6. I will try to remember that my course is not my students’ highest priority. This one is tough, so all I can resolve is to try. Students come to us with a mixed set of skills, and an assortment of competing claims on their time. I know that my course, while important to them, is not the most important priority for them, and I shouldn’t penalize them for not loving A&P the way I do.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions for other resolutions. What have you gleaned from your students this semester that motivates you to make changes for your spring courses?

HAPS Web 13- Primal Pictures Partners with HAPS…Again!

8 Dec


Primal Pictures and the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society are proud to be working together for the second year in a row to support and recognize an exceptional undergraduate A&P student in 2014-15. The goal of this collaboration is to promote excellence in anatomy and physiology, encourage innovation, and celebrate learning by rewarding an outstanding A&P student.

Primal has agreed to sponsor a cash award of $1000 for a deserving undergrad, as well as up to $1100 to reimburse travel expenses for the 2015 HAPS Annual Conference in San Antonio Texas!  In addition to this, the $350 Annual Conference fee will be waived.

Last year, this award went to an amazing undergrad, Dani Hall.  Dani has since taken on a leadership rolesin HAPS, by serving on the Communications Committee.

This is an excellent time of year to think about your best students and consider nominating one for this award.  All nominations are due by February 3, 2015.

Instructors who nominate students must:
  • be teaching at an accredited institution in the US or Canada
  • have at least two years of Human A&P or Human Biology (broadly defined) teaching experience
  • have direct knowledge of the student being nominated and be able to explain why the nominee deserves this award.

Nominated undergraduate student must be:

  • a degree-seeking student enrolled full-time at an accredited higher education institution in the US or Canada during the 2014-2015 academic year
  • enrolled in at least one Human A&P or Human Biology course in the 2014-2015 academic year.
  • a person who would benefit from attending the HAPS Annual Conference

Award recipients will receive their award at the HAPS Membership Meeting on May 25, 2015 and must be present.

HAPS Blog—We ate too much!

1 Dec
We ate the whole thing!

We ate the whole thing!

The HAPS blogging team ate too much during the holiday and will be taking the week off.  We’ll see you next week though, with more fun HAPS news!

HAPS Web 12- Travel Award Applications DUE Monday 12/1!

24 Nov
Skully in San Antonio

Are you planning to hang with the HAPSters in San Antonio? Apply for a scholarship now!

If you’re looking for financial assistance in getting to San Antonio in May, HAPS has your back.  There are four awards available to help you make it happen.

ALL of these applications are DUE by December 1, so get your things together and apply now!

The Sam Drogo Technology in the Classroom Award
This award is given to someone who demonstrates innovative use of technology to engage undergraduates in human anatomy and physiology. Two awards are available, both sponsored by ADInstruments.
Award: Awards up to $500 to attend the HAPS annual conference.

Robert Anthony Scholarship
This award is given to new instructors in A&P with the goal of helping new faculty network with seasoned professionals during their first five (5) years of teaching anatomy and physiology by attending the HAPS annual conference.
Award: Pays for registration fee at the annual conference.

Contingent Faculty Scholarship
This award is set up to encourage Contingent Faculty to network with seasoned professionals by attending the HAPS annual conference.
Award: Covers registration fee at the HAPS annual conference.

HAPS Graduate Student/Postdoctoral Travel Award
This award is given to graduate students or postdoctoral students who attend and present at the HAPS annual conference.
Award: $400 cash and annual conference registration fee is waived.


Lessons Learned from NABT

19 Nov

I attended the National Association of Biology Teachers last week (my excuse for not posting last Wednesday) in Cleveland. In addition to my first experience with “lake effect snow,” and a reception at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (with biology rock stars Sean Carroll and Neil Shubin), I profited from some great, focused workshops. One of the most amazing, because of its simplicity, was a short lesson on how to teach students to make the most of graphs.

You might think reading graphs is intuitively obvious to young students, and it probably was to those of us who went into science teaching. I’m guessing that if it had been difficult, we would all have gone into some other professional field.  So it might be difficult to explain something we do without working at it, and having a step-wise method to help students think about what graphing means is really helpful.  Having an approach that starts with what a student finds easy to do is a good way to engage them and retain their interest.  The technique I learned (presented by Cindy Gay, of Steamboat Springs HS in Colorado) was developed for an AP Biology workshop put on by BSCS.  The technique has three parts, which are easily summarized as identify, analyze, and caption.  The first step involves simply identifying (with arrows) parts of a graph that appear to have some significance. This can be something as simple as a line increasing, or the point at which a curve peaks.  The second step is to determine the meaning of the aspects identified in the first step.  This requires conscious examination of the axes, and thinking about what the graph means.  The last step is to write a title/caption that states the point of the graph and explains its significance.    As I said, this may seem simplistic and obvious to us, but I’m sure I have students who could benefit from developing a habit of identifying, analyzing, and captioning important graphs.

Several of the sessions at the meeting were sponsored by HHMI, including a debut of their latest educational video, on the evolutionary transition that led to humans.  (All resources are available by going to www.hhmi.org.)  That facet of human anatomy is another aspect that is intuitive to many but not all of us.  Teaching resources are being developed and will be available at no charge on the website. Resources developed in the last few years are already posted, and I encourage you to take a look if you haven’t ever visited the site.

These teaching resources point up the value of attending conferences; I hope you are all planning to attend the HAPS San Antonio conference next May, and regionals that are in your area. We’ve made a commitment to offer three regional meetings a year, so you should be able to attend at least one every year.  You might even consider presenting a workshop; you never know how the simplest of ideas will resonate with your colleagues!

HAPS Web 11- Thieme and HAPS join forces!

12 Nov
As part of a larger partnership that includes 30% off all Thieme products for HAPS members and students, the HAPS leadership is proud to announce a new award to recognize and reward excellence in undergraduate A&P instruction.

As part of a larger partnership that includes 30% off all Thieme products for HAPS members and students, the HAPS leadership is proud to announce a new award to recognize and reward excellence in undergraduate A&P instruction.

HAPS is always trying to find ways to make the lives of its members easier.  For example, HAPS offers scholarships to ease the financial burden of participating in HAPS conferences or HAPS-I courses.  But HAPS also negotiates deals for its members, like the most recent partnership between HAPS and Thieme.

This new partnership has two excellent member benefits.  First, Thieme is proud to now offer all HAPS members and their students 30% off and free shipping* for all titles from Thieme.com. This generous deal benefits members AND their students.

Second, Thieme is sponsoring the 2015 HAPS-Thieme Excellence in Teaching Award!  This award is designed to recognize and reward excellence in undergraduate A&P instruction.  Award winners must be nominated by colleagues and will demonstrate the core value of HAPS.  Nominations are allowed from instructors or administrators at accredited institution in the US or Canada.  The winner of this award will receive a $1,500 cash prize and free registration for the 2015 Annual HAPS conference in San Antonio.
The deadline for  nomination is January 1, 2015.

Nominators must have:

  • Experience as an instructor or administrator at an accredited institution in the US or Canada
  • At least two years of A&P (broadly defined) teaching experience or administrative experience
  • Direct knowledge of the instructor being nominated and be able to explain why the nominee deserves this award

Nominees must:

  • Be teaching an A&P course (broadly defined) in 2014-2015 academic year with an expectation that he/she will continue as an A&P instructor going forward
  • Be a HAPS member in good standing on January 1, 2015
  • Be an exemplary teacher
  • Provide a CV and a note saying that he/she understands that he/she must attend the annual conference.

*Free shipping applies only to orders placed on www.thieme.com  and  ebookstore.thieme.com. Offer available in the continental US only. All prices are subject to change without notice. This promotion is available for a limited time only.

HAPS Web 10- What is the HAPS Exam?

9 Nov
Student taking exam.

The HAPS Exam gives you the chance to see what your students know, and compare their performance to students across the country.

From the founding of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) as an organization in 1989, there has been a realization that many of our students find the study of Human Anatomy and Physiology to be difficult.  For some, there is the difficulty in the sheer volume of new words to process and for most, there is also a difficulty in conceptualizing the body as a set of integrated organ systems with interdependent processes necessary to sustain the life of the whole person. Partially to counteract grade inflation pressures on individual campuses, partially to justify requests for baseline prerequisite courses, and partially just for our own reference, there has been a desire to find some more “objective’ way to know how well our students were doing.  Out of this impulse, the first “HAPS Comprehensive Exam” was born in first draft around 1992.  It has undergone several major revisions through time and migrated from a mail order, self-scored, paper and pencil form to an on-line secure testing environment.  The HAPS Testing committee continues to write new questions and refine the scoring algorithm.  The exam has costs associated with the maintenance of the database, administration and data analysis of the results and so is offered on a fee basis to faculty and administrators at accredited institutions of higher education.

What the HAPS exam is NOT:

  • The HAPS exams (and the individual items contained in the exam) are not, and have never claimed to be, perfect or without flaws.
  • The HAPS exam is not an exhaustive examination of everything that your students actually know or even theoretically should know.
  • The HAPS exam is not a substitute for a final exam targeted to your student population and your particular course.
  • The HAPS exam score by itself in isolation conveys relatively little information about your students’ learning or the quality of your course(s).

What the HAPS Exam IS:

  • The HAPS exam is a means to obtain some comparison data to help benchmark the performance of your students against the performance of other A&P students across the North American continent.
  • The HAPS exam is a secure 100 item test correlated to the HAPS Learning Outcomes for Undergraduate A&P.
  • The HAPS exam provides normative data about relative performance of your students in comparison to the other students taking the exam in that term.
  • The HAPS exam is currently the only nationally normed instrument for benchmarking your program’s effectiveness.

A Corporate Training Model

5 Nov

In one of my earlier lives, I was a research associate for a USDA scientist in Auburn, Alabama.  At the time, my husband was a graduate student in the Fisheries Department at Auburn University.  I had been teaching physiology to pre-pharmacy and pre-veterinary students at Auburn, but took a chance to get a civil service rating by taking a temporary position at the nearby USDA lab.  The majority of my activities related to nutrition research, specifically total body nitrogen analysis.  The scientist I worked for, Dr. John Frandsen, was studying the effects of parasite loads on the nutritional needs of various experimental animals.  When I took over the job, he had accumulated a backlog of research specimens to process – an entire freezer full of rats waiting to be liquified in nitric acid so their nitrogen content could be determined.  His previous RA had been hampered by a lack of equipment, but a budget windfall allowed us to quadruple our processing equipment.  This alone would have simply moved the bottleneck from one stage (frozen rats) to another (liquified samples), if it weren’t for one piece of high-tech equipment: a “nitrogen auto-analyzer,” which could process about 40 samples at a time without constant adult supervision.  Within a span of about 6 months, we managed to slog through about 3 years’ worth of experimental subjects, allowing Dr. Frandsen to speed up submission of manuscripts for publication.

The autoanalyzer was a slick piece of work: it had a robotic arm that swung from sample vial to analysis chamber, a disc with 40 slots that ratcheted around, and a spectrophotometer that could analyze the nitrogen content of samples in the chamber.  It cost a whopping ten thousand dollars (and that was in 1980).  Its purchase represented a huge investment to the USDA nutrition lab, and its successful implementation was essential to Dr. Frandsen’s research, the budgetary future of the lab, and my personal prestige.  To make sure we got the maximum use out of this sophisticated equipment, a 3-day training course was included in the purchase price.  The USDA budget was stretched to cover my travel expenses to Tarrytown, New York, where I interacted with a team of 2 company trainers and a loosely affiliated group of technicians whose labs happened to have purchased an autoanlyzer within the same time frame that Dr. Frandsen did.

This was my first (and, so far, my only) experience with corporate training. We met in a lab at the company building, where on the evening before the first day of training, we were each given training manuals and randomly assorted into groups.  We met from eight until five for three days, and we were given homework assignments every night. The training manual was broken down into the simplest of steps; the nightly assignments were clear, concrete, and circumscribed.   I knew exactly what was expected of me, and I made sure I completed my assignments as thoroughly as I could.  Every morning, we started with a review of the assignments, our trainers testing our familiarity with the information covered in the homework. We covered background concepts as well as technical steps. We practiced and critiqued. We debriefed and repeated.  We questioned each other’s results, analyzed plans, supported decisions. Even knowing we would only work together for three days, we did not question the benefit of forming teams and working to support each other’s development of skills.

I could not, now, recall the practical information learned in that crash course. I do remember confidently running the equipment and training the technicians to run it as well.  Mostly, I remember being amazed at the success of the corporate training methods. There were some assumptions made by those corporate trainers: that we all had a basic competence coming in; that we were prepared to spend the time needed to learn the techniques, and that we would in fact do our homework and come to class every day, and be attentive and participate fully in all aspects of the training.  I also was impressed with the training materials: nothing was left to chance; all steps were spelled out, all processes explained in clear terms.  Trainers were on task for the entire class, following a procedure that was clearly honed by repetition.

As I try to respond to the needs of my own students, I wonder if I can adopt any of the tactics used by those corporate trainers.  Is it possible to spell out, step by step, what I need my students to learn?  Can I convey to them the need to have the mindset to do the homework and participate fully in their training, when my course is 15 weeks interspersed by the rest of their lives, rather than three intense days?  Can I get my students to see my course as a part of their professions, so that they move away from the reflex resistance of a young student and instead adopt the ‘can-do’ attitude of a productive team member?  I realize I’m working with a different cohort than the one I was part of in that training class, but I’d like to think that many, if not most, of my students are as motivated to learn as I was – at least, initially.  What can we do to help students start off effectively and stay on course? How can we help them develop an attitude of professional competence and cooperation?  As always, I look forward to your insights!

-Betsy Ott

HAPS Web 9- The HAPS Learning Outcome Project

2 Nov

Learning outcomesHAPS has a long history of developing resources for educators of human anatomy and physiology. In 1992, the HAPS Core Curriculum Committee issued Course Guidelines for Introductory Level Anatomy & Physiology (now Course Guidelines for Undergraduate Instruction). This document was originally developed to provide guidance in setting curriculum for a two semester undergraduate course in human anatomy and physiology and was the beginning of the HAPS Learning Outcome Project. The HAPS Curriculum and Instruction Committee has more recently added A&P Learning Outcomes to accompany the course guidelines. All told, more than 35 instructors contributed to the set of documents that make up this incredible resource.

Today, this resource includes:

The authors wanted to be sure people understood that the project represents a suggested model and is not intended to be a mandate or an infringement upon academic freedom.  Instead, it is meant to be a guide for helping to improve student learning.  As such, instructors should realize that they are not required to use every outcome in the tables and are certainly welcome to include additional outcomes of their own.  Instructors should also feel free to cover the outcomes in different orders, or in different places within the course, than what are presented in the project. The goal of the HAPS Learning Outcomes Project was to provide a set of goals and learning outcomes for a two-semester course sequence in human anatomy and physiology (A&P) intended to prepare students for a variety of clinical and academic programs.  The documents in this project can be used as a benchmark for instructors currently teaching A&P courses or as a guide for those developing new courses.

The HAPS Curriculum and Instruction Committee consistently reviews and updates the documents of the Learning Outcomes Project. Comments related to the learning outcomes or supporting documents are welcome and may be sent to committee chair and will be considered for the next revision.

Next week, we’ll talk about the HAPS exam, which was written to assess how well students are meeting the standards outlined by the HAPS LO’s.


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