Learning – Always in Style

27 Feb
Take Rational Course Design with Margaret Weck!

A message from HAPS President Emeritus, Margaret Weck!

Have you ever noticed how variable the depth of learning is amongst students in your classroom – even when you have students with very similar backgrounds and levels of preparation?  Perhaps you’ve looked for patterns or specific characteristics that might help explain this variability.  After all, if you can find consistent and predictable behavioral patterns, you might discover the key to motivating and assisting those who are struggling with coursework.  One useful tool for doing just that is to identify each student’s preferred “learning style,” a method that groups students based on their preferred means of learning.  Interestingly, this very topic was the focus of a HAPS –L discussion forum this past summer.   Following is a brief summary of the main points of that discussion supplemented with a little additional information.

A 2004 book by Coffield, et al. (1) identified 71 different learning style models, most of which are variations of two particular general themes. One of these themes is psychologically-oriented and looks at how individuals make sense of their personal experiences.  Examples include David Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory (LSI) and Zubin Austin’s Health Professionals Inventory of Learning Styles (H-PILS).  The second major theme focuses more on neurological sensory information processing.  Examples include the right-brain vs. left-brain dominance tests and Neil Fleming’s Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinesthetic (VARK) inventory, a tool that indicates a person’s preferences for sensory modalities that most smoothly facilitate the mastering of new information.  

Will I be able to definitively resolve the central issues of learning styles in this post?  Of course not.  As we all know, it is notoriously difficult to “prove” anything, even without the additional handicap of measuring psychological processes through self-report.  In my opinion, it’s not worth the necessary paper or electrons to engage in a heated debate over this, especially since the take-home message is pretty much the same regardless of the outcome.  

Even those who strongly advocate the use of learning styles are aware of the limitations of each specific model and the instruments used to categorize individual learners.  Furthermore, the results of every inventory are full of questions of validity, reliability, and stability.  In other words, what does it really mean for someone to be an “assimilator,” or a “kinesthetic learner,” or “right brained?”  Are people with one tendency actually incapable of learning in any other way? Are these tendencies fixed, or can one improve or broaden native capabilities or preferences with enough effort and exposure to new types of learning?  The questions are endless, and addressing them is beyond the scope of this article; however, Edutopia (2015) has an overview of the various opinions and positions held by education leaders on learning styles: http://www.edutopia.org/article/learning-styles-real-and-useful-todd-finley.  

Since 2008 (2) rigorous educational research has not shown that specific instruction targeted toward a student’s learning style produces any statistically significant improvement in measured learning as compared to a non-preferred learning style.  Yet the debate over the usefulness/uselessness of learning styles persists.  

As far as course design is concerned, “universal” instructional design already encourages the use of multiple delivery modes to both present and assess student understanding of the most important ideas in our content.  Using multiple forms of representing and expressing key information automatically helps students find at least one point of entry into the content. So if preferred learning styles are real facilitators of learning, universal design already addresses them to a large degree.  Additionally, multiple presentation and assessment modalities provide reinforcement and a variety of possible retrieval cues which should help everyone – regardless of learning style.

One big positive offered by learning styles is that they are a non-threatening way to engage students in conversations about their learning.  Many students do not routinely participate in systematic self-reflection, but we can encourage them to talk about how they learn and what it means to demonstrate their own understanding of a subject by using easy-to-understand terminology found in the learning styles inventory.  As long as we don’t affix permanent labels to our students, which in effect “excuses” them from mastering the material, learning styles can provide students with insight into their own learning and offer a source of concrete strategies for engaging with course material.

  1. Coffield, F., Moseley, d., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004) Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 Learning: A systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre.
  2. Pashler, H., McDanierl, M., Rohrer,  D. & Bjork, R. (2008) Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 9(3):105-119.

Do Our A&P Students Know How to Read? Part 3

20 Feb
valerie-lee

A message from Valerie Lee, an assistant professor at Southern Adventist University who just started her 6th year of teaching and loves HAPS!

In Parts 1 and 2 of this blog series, we identified that Anatomy & Physiology students are having difficulty with reading comprehension.  More specifically, their struggles are not limited to understanding specific content; rather, they are struggling with general vocabulary comprehension.
(To view Part 1 &/or Part 2 of this series,  Click the Link(s):
“Do Our A&P Students Know How to Read
 -PART 1             -PART 2

For her Southern Scholars senior research project, Molly Theus, first year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student at the University of Georgia in Athens,  attempted to seek insight into this problem by asking four questions:

  1. Does a positive correlation exist between cumulative GPA and vocabulary comprehension?
  2. Does a positive correlation exist between time spent reading for pleasure and vocabulary comprehension?
  3. Does a positive correlation exist between being read to as a child and vocabulary comprehension?
  4. Is there a link between a student’s major and vocabulary comprehension?

Molly chose six classes as candidates for investigation: General Biology II, Principles of Biology, Anatomy and Physiology II, Cell and Molecular Biology, Studies in Daniel, and Pathophysiology (Table 1). These classes were chosen to include one lower (n=42) and one upper division (n=31) biology-major class, one lower (n=43) and one upper division (n=32) nursing class, and one lower (n=27) and one upper division (n=20) general education class (total n=195). To assess personal reading habits and history, a questionnaire was distributed to all students in the six selected classes. To assess vocabulary comprehension, a twenty-question multiple choice vocabulary quiz was also distributed. In order to assure anonymity, informed consent and student information forms were assigned a unique three number code corresponding to each questionnaire.

Participants were given a two-week period of time in which to complete the questionnaires. Once the packets were collected, each informed consent document containing student names was separated from the rest of the forms so that quiz scores were kept anonymous. The names were needed to compile average GPAs and class-standing information for each participant. GPA and class-standing was then matched to quiz scores using the unique numerical codes. We made use of an ANCOVA linear model to analyze our data. The number of questions missed on the vocabulary assessment was the dependent variable and the independent variables are listed in Table 2. University GPA was rank-transformed to meet parametric assumptions. Analysis was performed using R version 3.3.0.

The preliminary result yielded three key results:

KEY RESULT 1: Students’ reading for pleasure had no statistical significance for predicting higher scores on the vocabulary quiz (Table 2). This was contrary to what we had hypothesized based on the literature.  

KEY RESULT 2: In our model, the amount of time parents spent reading to their child was a statistically significant predictor of scores on the vocabulary comprehension quiz. This relationship was consistent even when controlling for university GPA (F(3, 183) = 4.80, p = 0.003; Figure 1).

KEY RESULT 3: A higher cumulative university GPA was also a significant predictor for improved quiz scores (F(1, 183) = 20.39, p = <0.001; Figure 2).

Molly and I were surprised that reading for pleasure was not a statistically significant indicator of vocabulary comprehension. Molly suggests several possible interpretations:

    • Students choose reading materiel at or below their reading level.
    • If a student’s reading level is low, that might inhibit acquisition of non-content specific collegiate vocabulary.
    • Self reporting is not a precise tool.

What can we do with this information?

  • Early intervention seems to be key to the issue of vocabulary comprehension
  • Collegiate students identified as struggling with non-content specific vocabulary comprehension need interventions as well. Possible interventions include encouraging them to read challenging books outside of class and providing mentor support.
  • This is an interdisciplinary issue that needs to be addressed in every department.

The preliminary results are very interesting and both Molly and I are interested in collecting more data in the future by expanding the background questions asked and surveying both private and public institutions. If you are interested in helping us, contact me at vlee@southern.edu.

Do Our A&P Students Know How to Read? PART 2

14 Feb
molly-theus2

A message from Molly Theus, first year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student at the University of Georgia in Athens.

  • This message from Molly Theus, first year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student at the University of Georgia in Athens is Part 2 of a 3 Part Series; “Do Our A&P Students Know How to Read

(To review Part 1 visit the link:   -PART 1 ).

Vocabulary comprehension is a crucial component of any student’s education. Research has been done about how to best teach content-specific vocabulary (Stinnett, 2012), and having competent instructors is certainly a key component. To teach non-content-specific vocabulary, teachers at the elementary level need to have “specialized linguistic knowledge” (Phelps & Schilling, 2004) to effectively teach reading. Reading comprehension is assessed primarily with standardized testing assessing Common Core standards (Fisher & Frey, 2014). These Common Core standards emphasize that “teaching to the test” will no longer work and that there is hope that reading improvement could be on the way (Hirsh, 2010). Content-specific subject tests, such as science and math tests, are also useful in assessing reading and vocabulary comprehension.

There is growing concern in the education community about an apparent lack of vocabulary mastery. A strong emphasis was placed on reading under the 2001 “No Child Left Behind Law” (Hirsh, 2010), which aimed to improve test scores across all subject areas. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports that the nation’s average reading scores in 2009 for grades 4 and 8 are not statistically different from those in either 2007 or 2001. While there has been no marked improvement in reading scores, math scores “have seen an upward trend after the instatement of the law in 2001” (Hirsh, 2010). A study conducted in 1983 showed that students had difficulty comprehending assigned tests, seemingly due to issues with vocabulary comprehension, not content complexity (Moore, Readence & Rickelman). Content-specific comprehension could also be linked to reading strategies, as passive readers appear to have more difficulty comprehending science texts than active readers (Croner, 2003).

Vocabulary comprehension is not only important for success on individual scholastic tasks such as exams, but also for a student’s overall outlook for success. In an article written for the publication Principal, E.D. Hirsch Jr. states that “Verbal scores are highly correlated with a student’s life chances and contributions to society” (2010). It is crucial that students who appear to be struggling with vocabulary comprehension are identified and given supplemental assistance, as “Vocabulary growth rate differences accumulated over time such that the effect on vocabulary size was large” (Duff, Tomblin & Catts, 2015). This means that the gap between high-achieving students and underperforming students continues to widen over time.

Several instructional methods have been shown to be particularly effective in improving vocabulary comprehension in lower grades. One such technique is scaffolding. Scaffolding, or using complex texts written at a level higher than a student’s current grade level, can “build confidence and competency [in] decoding unfamiliar words” (Fisher & Fray, 2014). Encouraging teachers to read aloud to students can help students understand “text structure, word solving and comprehension strategies so that skills are built and habits are formed” (Regan & Berkeley, 2012). Teachers should also emphasize that their students “read widely from texts they want to read, building their background knowledge and vocabulary while developing morally, emotionally, and intellectually” (Ivey & Johnston, 2013). Furthermore, according to Patrick Croner who compared active to passive reading comprehension in science texts, active readers demonstrate more metacognition and utilize pre-reading and during-reading strategies to improve comprehension. Passive readers, on the other hand, tend to be much less engaged in the text. Consequently, Croner recommends using varied reading strategies to turn passive readers into active readers to improve their textual comprehension (2003).

Outside of the classroom, reading for pleasure is an indicator for vocabulary success. Students who read on their own are more likely to encounter low-frequency words and improve their vocabulary than their minimally-reading counterparts (Duff, Tomblin & Catts, 2015). It has also been demonstrated that reading aloud with preschoolers, and asking the children questions while being read stories, improves vocabulary acquisition (Senechal, 1997).

To give students the tools they need to be successful in college and beyond, steps need to be taken throughout development, beginning with preschool-age students at home and continuing throughout elementary and high school.  The inability to understand basic vocabulary is an issue best solved before students reach the collegiate level. However, new developments and novel approaches of teaching content and reading comprehension to college students using adaptive computer software (Ray & Belden, 2007) could be promising for struggling students.

Come back next week to hear about a research project conducted within the microcosm of Southern Adventist University students last semester to further investigate the extent of this problem. 

Literature Cited

Croner, P. E. (2003). Strategies for teaching science content reading. The Science Education Review 2(4), 104-19

Duff, D., Tomblin, J. B., & Catts, H. (2015). The influence of reading on vocabulary growth: A case for a Matthew effect. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research 58, 853-64.

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2014) Scaffolded reading instruction of content-area texts. Read Teach The Reading Teacher 67(5), 347-51.

Hirsch, E. D. (2010). Teaching content is teaching reading. Principal. (November/December) 10-14.

Ivey, G., & Johnston, P. (2013). Engagement with young adult literature: Processes and outcomes. Reading Research Quarterly, 48(3), 1-21.

Moore, D. W., Readence, J. E., & Rickelman, R. J. (1983). An historical exploration of content area reading instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 18(4), 419-38.

Phelps, G., & Schilling, S. (2004). Developing measures of content knowledge for teaching reading. The Elementary School Journal, 105(1), 31-48.

Ray, R. D., & Belden, N. (2007). Teaching college level content and reading comprehension skills simultaneously via an artificially intelligent adaptive computerized instructional system. The Psychological Record 57, 201-18.

Regan, K., & Berkeley, S. (2012). Effective reading and writing instruction: A focus on modeling. Intervention in School & Clinic, 47(5), 276-282.

Senechal, M. (1997). The differential effect of storybook reading on preschoolers’ acquisition of expressive and receptive vocabulary. Journal of Child Language 24(1), 123-38.

Stinnett, M. (2012). Content area reading pedagogy and domain knowledge. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 40(3), 70-5.

Do Our A&P Students Know How to Read? PART 1

5 Feb
valerie-lee

A message from Valerie Lee, an assistant professor at Southern Adventist University who just started her 6th year of teaching and loves HAPS!

Years ago, I took a graduate level educational class called “Teaching Reading in the Content Area.”  This class was geared toward elementary and secondary schools; I never dreamed the information presented would be relevant to me later as a professor in a college classroom.

I teach a second semester combined Anatomy and Physiology course nearly every term. My students are primarily freshmen planning to pursue programs in Nursing or other Allied Health Fields.  Early in the semester, I tell them this class is like learning a new language.  So, I try to emphasize word roots while pointing out the meanings of Latin prefixes and suffixes.

Even though studious students focus their efforts on memorizing anatomy-specific vocabulary, they surprisingly have difficulty on exams with the meanings of English words that I assume all students know. After seeing a discussion about this issue on the HAPS listserv in December 2015, I realized I wasn’t alone.

Over the course of a few days, A&P professors all over the country added basic vocabulary words their students struggled with to a list I compiled.

Table 1 includes some of the non-content-specific words with which A&P students routinely have trouble.

terms_not_understood

 

Table 2 includes many content-specific words that A&P students often confuse.  

terms_easily_confused

Quizzing students on the meanings of these words, on the first day of class, might be an effective tool for encouraging students to assess their current level of preparation and readiness for the course.  

Thinking back to my educational class, I realize this is not a new problem. So, what does the literature have to say about the problem and what steps are suggested to provide solutions to the problem?  Molly Theus, one of my former students and now a first year veterinarian student at UGA, prepared a literature review on the subject. To read Molly’s review, stay tuned for next week’s blog.

Overcome Student “Data Analysis Fears” by Making It Fun !

30 Jan
HAPS-Dais,Julie-Blog-17-0129-head shot photo cropped 2012[3].png

A message from HAPS member Julie Dais, Biology faculty at Okanagan College in Kelowna BC and coordinator of the HAPS Student Lab Data Project

What’s the problem?

Have you heard this from some of your students ?  “I chose a career in the health professions because less high school math was required.”  Many of my anatomy and physiology students become quite anxious when it comes to anything “numbers-oriented”.  I definitely see this when I return their graded midterm exams.  There are always a few students who want me to calculate their percentage on the test because they say they can’t do it.  This phobia arises again when they need to calculate heart rate from electrocardiograms of different time lengths.  They can’t do the math to obtain beats per minute with a 10 second strip (multiply the rate by 6).  Because of this, my colleagues and I have resisted incorporating analysis of the physiological data collected in the lab.

The Solution …

One of the ways I have tried to reduce this anxiety is to find interesting ways of incorporating “math” in the laboratory.  When students collect their personal physiological data, their interest in analyzing it overshadows their fear of math.  For example, during the spirometry lab students measure their tidal volume, vital capacity, and additionally calculate their FEV1/FEV ratio.  Inevitably they want to know how they individually compare to other people in the class on the basis of specific demographic information (such as sex, age, height, activity level, waist circumference, and smoker versus nonsmoker).  At this point we can look at class averages, but the class sizes are small.  This brought up the question “what if many colleges collected the same information and we found a way to pool this data?”

To get this project off the ground, I wrote an article about this new HAPS Student Lab Data Project for the HAPS-Educator (Spring 2014) and subsequently presented a poster at HAPS 2015 in Las Vegas about the content available on the Teaching Resources page.  A number of instructors have expressed interest, but we need more participants!

What physiological data can you share ?    HAPS-Blog-17-0129-Dais,Julie-EKG for poster.JPG

In addition to demographic information, the following measures can be shared:

  • Electrocardiogram – heart rate, PR interval, P wave duration, QRS duration, T wave duration (before and after exercise)
  • Blood pressure (systolic and diastolic ) before and after exercise
  • Spirometry – respiration rate, tidal volume, inspiratory reserve, expiratory reserve, vital capacity, FEV1, FVC (before and after exercise)

Students can use any equipment for physiological data collection.  Participating schools are asked to include the type of equipment such as Vernier with Logger Pro, BioPac, iWorks, etc.  In the future anyone could compare results from different devices and see if there is a significant difference.

How can you and your students participate ?

If you would like to participate, visit the HAPS – Student Lab Data Project  page on teh website. You can also navigate to the HAPS website, then click on: [Resources], [Teaching Resources], and [Student Lab Data Project].   This page provides my contact information; email me directly to receive the link to a private, editable Google Sheet (spreadsheet) for your institution (Note: Only I will have access to your Google Sheets.)  I will “curate” the data (examine it for erroneous results), move it to an Excel spreadsheet with previously pooled data, and then put it on the webpage. HOWEVER, its important to note that for privacy reasons, access to the curated spreadsheet requires one to sign in to the HAPS website (i.e. HAPS membership is required… so visit the HAPS website now to review the types of membership).

What can you do with the data ?

Instructors can give students access to the link for the Google Sheet and students can upload their physiological data during lab (they do not need a Google account).  At the end of lab, instructors could demonstrate how to calculate class averages and then demonstrate how to isolate topics of interest to calculate the average (ex. systolic blood pressure of males and females).  Comparing these results by observing if the means are similar or not is fine.  Students can then try this on their own using data that interests them.  However, if you wish to apply inferential statistics to see if the differences in the means are statistically significant, there are two templates on the webpage for this purpose.  Instructions are included.

Students have a lot of fun playing with their data.  One of my classes was especially intrigued when they discover that a 5’3″ slightly built female had an incredible expiratory reserve volume exceeding the male average by almost double.  It turns out that she had been a synchronized swimmer for 12 years!  The very fit, male Human Kinetics students in the class were humbled.

Meet the New HAPS Blog Master…

23 Jan
Version 2

A message from Brian Reid, HAPS Blog Master and GSU Undergraduate in Atlanta, GA

I’d like to extend a sincere Thank You! for the opportunity to introduce myself as your next HAPS Communications Committee Blog Master.  My name is Brian Reid and I am a non-traditional, undergraduate senior in the Neuroscience Institute of Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.

I’d like to thank Dr. Lois Borek for referring me to Dr. Kyla Ross (HAPS Steering Committee Chair) for consideration in the TA Apprenticeship Program for Anatomy I & II. I began to teach A&P I & II Labs in the Fall semester following my Apprenticeship, and with several years experience under the direction of Dr. Ross and now, Dr. Kavita Oommen and Kathy Rockwell, I continue to enjoy this contribution to my educational experience.neuroscience-institute-final-300x109.jpg

I became a student member of HAPS in 2016 when I attended the National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. I presented a workshop entitled “Learning How to Learn A&P, a TA’s Perspective” with my co-presenter, Emily O’Connell, TA;under the advisement and direction of the convention’s Co-Chair, Dr. Kyla Ross.  We were thrilled with the overwhelming welcome and presented to more than 120 in attendance (standing room only!), and were honored to present again along with Shauna Cheesman, TA at the HAPS Eastern Regional Conference in Fort Lauderdale, October 2016.

I joined Communications Committee at the National Convention and am now happy to serve as your HAPS Blog Master for the spring 2017 term. My academic, professional, and life experiences, coupled with the advisement by Dr. Lois Borek and Dr. Kyla Ross, and now my affiliation with HAPS, a wonderful national organization of professionals, will ultimately pave the way for me to become an academic professional in the future.

I’d like to extend my gratitude to each of you in advance, for your contributions to the HAPS Blog and I look forward to working with everyone as Blog Master.  Please email me with any ideas and certainly your submissions to the blog.

I look forward to meeting each of you in May 2017, Salt Lake City, UT.
See You There !

Bests,
Brian Reid

haps_2017_sm_web_

 

HAPS – National Convention 2017 – Salt Lake City, UT

 

HAPS Membership: Lots of Options

15 Jan
A message from the HAPS Executive Director, Peter English.

A message from the HAPS Executive Director, Peter English.

So as the HAPS Executive Director, things like different types of memberships is something that gets me going.  HAPS is very inclusive, and we have lots of membership types to match your needs as members.  There might even be a few membership types you may not know about! So check out your options.

Multi-year Regular Membership – These are pretty self explanatory, but what may not be clear is how much they help HAPS.  HAPS has always had a challenge with members letting memberships lapse in years when they are not attending the Annual Conference.  These multi-year memberships really help HAPS function and give us an ability to plan appropriately for future expenses.

Conference Membership – If you register for the Annual Conference as a non-member, you will receive a complimentary one-year membership.  This type of membership is great for members expecting to come to HAPS each year, because otherwise it would exacerbate the retention challenge mentioned above.  The only member benefit not accrued to this membership type is member pricing on the next Annual Conference registration.  This membership type expires one year from the registration date.

Contingent Faculty Membership – Did you know that most organizations didn’t even have a definition of contingent faculty when this membership type was created at HAPS?  The HAPS definition definition is on our website, and this is meant to include those who likely don’t have much if any institutional support where they teach.  HAPS can be the support system for these contingent faculty who need it.  

High School Teacher Membership – There are high school A&P programs across the country and we are pleased to include these instructors in HAPS.  We also have a high-school specific discussion group that runs on the same back-end platform as the more widely known (and incredibly valuable) HAPS-L discussion group.

Student Membership – This is the membership category that we get the most calls about.  This membership is for full-time students – the kind of person who answers the question, “What do you do?” with something along the lines of, “I go to school.”  This is not intended for people taking a class here or there.  That said, we have been fortunate to have really awesome student members, many of whom have had a big impact on the organization!  Thanks students!

Retired Faculty Membership – This is an obvious category, but there are advantages to this type of membership, including a reduced cost Annual Conference registration.  Did you know that there is a related semi-secret membership for retired long-time members of HAPS?  If you are a member in HAPS for all ten years before your retirement, you can ask for an Emeritus Membership.  This is a cost-free, lifetime HAPS membership starting with the first year after retirement.  

Clearly, there are lots of options, but the most important thing is that you stay a member! We need you to renew your membership and continue to be a part of our community!  Few other organizations have as many opportunities for participation in governance, for year-round communication and collaboration, and for just plain camaraderie.   

A Peek Behind the Podium

4 Dec
A message from Krista Rompolski, member of the HAPS ComCom.

A message from Krista Rompolski, member of the HAPS ComCom.

After 10 years of college and a terminal degree, it’s hard to imagine choosing to put yourself back into a situation as a student again. On the other hand, if we spent that many years, or more, in college, it is because we love to learn, and are passionate about what we study. More than any other conference I’ve attended or group I’ve belonged to, the HAPS community is brimming with professors and professionals who love what they do. As an A&P professor, I spend most of my time not at work in my own world. It’s not exactly a passion that can easily share with anyone not in the field, so my friends and family were surprised (but not really that surprised) that I applied for the 2-year Anatomy Training Program through the American Academy of Anatomists. I was fortunate and privileged to be admitted to this program.

In order to meet a number of requirements of the program, I enrolled in our college’s Gross Anatomy course for the Doctoral PT students. This is taught by my senior colleagues, and for an added twist, I’m sitting among many students who I had in A&P as undergraduates and stayed at Drexel for their DPT. After teaching for 5 years, still being (relatively) young and not too long out of school myself, I thought that I would have some advantage over these students, having gone through the hard work of a terminal degree and teaching A&P already. In fact, since I knew I would be placed in a lab group with 5 other students, I was very concerned about not steamrolling them, or guiding too much, out of fear of interfering with their learning. The past few weeks have taught me, in more ways than one, that I still have so much to learn. Here is the first lesson.

Lesson 1: My anatomy education has only just begun

img_6477

The study zone…

There’s no simpler way to say it- I’m stumped every day. I stand over a body confident after studying Grant’s atlas, reading Moore’s Clinical Anatomy and looking at as many cadaver photos as I can, only to lose orientation as I move from one cadaver to the next. All my experience in gross anatomy lab until now had been handling joint preparations and prosections, often neatly labeled and tagged (by the gross lab elves, I assumed) by the time I brought my A&P students to lab. The difference between photos in a text and the actual body is staggering. Even if by some magic, all the colors were the same in the body as in the text (oh if only nerves were bright yellow and arteries bright red, how much time would we save?) the lack of 3D visualization is a major stumbling block to overcome when dissecting.

skull

…and more study zone.

It saddens me to think that cadaver education might be going by the wayside in the advent of digital resources. There simply can’t be a substitute to feeling the springy give of an artery, or tracing the terminal branches of the brachial plexus from the cords to the innervated muscles.

No matter how humbling, this experience is showing me the value of continuing to challenge yourself and further your education. If we aren’t willing to do so, why should our students?

Wish me luck!

 

The HAPS ListServ: The Best Part of Membership

28 Nov
A message from HAPS member, Karen Groh, A&P instructor from Good Samaritan College of Nursing and Health Science in Cincinnati OH.

A message from HAPS member, Karen Groh, A&P instructor from Good Samaritan College of Nursing and Health Science in Cincinnati OH.

“Seriously? Amid all that we’ve done in lab and lecture, how did that idea become lodged in your mind?”

Though I hoped my surprise was not apparent to the students, that was what I thought when, three weeks into the cardiovascular unit, I realized that several of my students thought blood could go directly from, for example, the foot to the stomach, completely bypassing the pulmonary circuit. Somewhere, somehow, despite all the learning activities in lab and lecture, some students had missed a crucial concept of the cardiovascular system: Blood going from organ A to organ B must (almost always) first go to the heart, then the lungs, back to the heart, then finally to organ B; blood vessels are essentially one-way roads.

After I patiently guided the confused students through some blood tracing until they understood this concept, I made a mental note to see what I could do to prevent this misconception from developing in future students. Though I’ve developed a “bag of tricks” with analogies for explaining many A&P concepts, I couldn’t come up with any good ideas this time. Working at a small school of nursing and health science, I have a limited number of colleagues to consult with when I need an idea.

Fortunately, as a HAPS member, I’m not limited to the people I work with because I have access to the HAPS ListServ, my door to an entire community of individuals who are teaching Anatomy and Physiology and are delighted to discuss almost anything related to A&P. One of the best things about the ListServ is the diversity. When someone throws out a question about A&P content or pedagogy, answers start pouring in from textbook authors, instructors at community colleges and large research institutions, high school teachers, experts doing research in just the field, and sometimes even from me! Amazingly, these people are incredibly generous with their ideas and information.

Because it has been my door to an incredible storehouse of knowledge and ideas, I consider the ListServ the best benefit of HAPS membership. Sometimes someone on the ListServ will mention an in-class activity; when I email them, they send me a copy to use in my class, no strings attached! How cool is that? Or someone might ask about reducing attrition in A&P, releasing another stream of useful ideas. Someone else might ask a question about the contraction cycle of the heart and the answers pour in, giving me access to a lively discussion at a high level about a topic I teach.

But back to my hapless students and their misconceptions about blood circulation. Stumped for good ideas, I threw the problem out to the ListServ community and ideas poured in. The ideas included:

  • A figure from a textbook, volunteered from the author
  • An amusement park analogy
  • An airport analogy
  • An electric car scenario
  • A delivery truck analogy
  • Suggestions regarding the root causes of the misconception and how to address them

And more! A treasure trove of ideas!

This semester, when I taught blood tracing in the lab, I used the delivery truck analogy, explaining to the students that the delivery trucks leave the heart (company headquarters) and go through the body (city) making deliveries. When they return to the heart (company headquarters), they have to go to the lungs (truck wash facility) to be cleaned before returning to headquarters to pick up more packages and head out again. I drew all of this on the board, emphasizing the fact that all the blood vessels (roads) were one-way only.

The results? This semester, I wasn’t aware of a single student who spent most of the cardiovascular unit convinced that the blood vessels were two-way streets allowing blood to go directly from organ A to organ B. It was a small teaching victory, but a satisfying one, thanks to the wonderful folks in the ListServ.

Last Call: Apply for Awards by Dec 1!

20 Nov
don-kelly

A message from Don Kelly, co-chair of the HAPS Foundation/Grants and Scholarships Committee.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

If you’re thinking of applying for one of the HAPS grants or scholarships for assistance in attending next year’s HAPS Annual Meeting, you’d better hurry! The deadline for submitting applications is December 1st, and that’s less than two weeks away.  We’d love to see you in Salt Lake City and we’d love to consider your application for one of these awards:

All applications are very straightforward and easy to complete.  But even if you don’t want to apply for your own award, consider nominating a colleague for one of these awards:

The Grants and Scholarships committee wants some work to do, and we really like giving away money! So don’t delay-visit the HAPS website now and submit your application.

And while we’re here…have fun identifying avian musculoskeletal anatomy during Thanksgiving dinner.  (C’mon…you’re an A&P teacher…you know you do it…)

Bird wing image- bones and muscles

Wing anatomy– because you know you’ll need it!