…don’t worry! We’ve got your back! And we’ll BE BACK in January. Enjoy the holidays!
…don’t worry! We’ve got your back! And we’ll BE BACK in January. Enjoy the holidays!
When I teach endocrinology students our unit on the adrenal gland cortical hormones, I always post a PowerPoint slide which depicts a Wikipedia image of the renin-aldosterone-angiotensin-system (RAAS).
Its author does an elegant job of elaborating angiotensin II’s targets and responses, which include increases in sympathetic nervous system activity, tubular Na+ reabsorption and K+ excretion and H2O retention, adrenal cortex release of aldosterone, arteriolar vasoconstriction with a concomitant increase in blood pressure, and posterior pituitary release of ADH (arginine vasopressin) leading to reabsorption of H2O by the collecting duct. Overall there is an increase in the perfusion of the juxtaglomerular apparatus (JGA), which offers the negative feedback signal to reduce renin output by the JGA.
I point out to students this elegant, multiple-organ defense of falling blood pressure: the kidney (for renin release), liver, lung, adrenal cortex, hypothalamus (for both CRH and ADH), and kidney (for elevated perfusion) is all automatic. But when I show diagrams from multiple sources, including texts, I offer this question, “What is missing from these images?” I do prompt them with a clue about loss of perspiration during workouts, but the ‘lights don’t go on’ until I reveal a PowerPoint shape with this on it, “Glug, glug, glug” – then they smile …. because they realize that drinking fluids provides the fastest return from hypovolemia…
Be thorough. Connect the dots.
Post comes from Robert S. Rawding, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Biology at Gannon University in Erie, PA.
“I was too embarrassed. He would think I was stupid,” replied my private tutoring client. This was her only response to why she did not meet with her professor after failing every exam the first time she took A&P 2 at a nearby university. I told her that most professors I know don’t assume that you are unintelligent if you’re struggling to understand material. The startling part of this exchange was her response to my reassurance, which was to ask, “Really?” She was genuinely surprised to hear that he would not assume she was an incapable student.
I didn’t think too much about this again until I picked up another student who also failed A&P 2 at a nearby community college. The story was the same, with a few added details. Despite failing 4 exams, no attempt was made to meet with the professor to discuss strategies for improvement. I asked her why. “Probably because I was embarrassed I did so poorly. I didn’t want to face my professor. Also, I didn’t think it would be helpful to go back and look, because reading the correct answers doesn’t really help matters if you don’t understand the content to begin with, so why make myself look stupid?” Now my curiosity was peaked. Is this how most students who don’t want to review and discuss their performance feel? Do they assume that they will either be judged, or that there’s nothing to be learned from seeing their mistakes? This might be especially true when exams are not cumulative. They may assume it’s better to just move on, in which case they are likely to repeat the same mistakes in preparing for the next assessment. It is easy to assume that only the students who are struggling will make appointments to review their performance, but from my experience, t’s usually the students hitting close to the average that view their exams, and the high and low scoring cohorts stay silent. The question then remains: Why would embarrassment stop a student from discussing their performance? Wouldn’t the desire to avoid more failure, or repeating a course, outweigh the risk?
Let’s assume for simplicity’s sake that you have created a supportive environment, you make yourself available, and when students do come, you provide constructive feedback that leaves them more confident and better prepared moving forward. However, the students who are struggling still don’t reach out. What else can, or should, an instructor do, for a student afraid of judgment? It is all too easy to write this off as a “silly” emotion, especially if you are a friendly, enthusiastic instructor (and I’ve never met a HAPSter who wasn’t!). However, after my experiences with the tutoring students over the summer, I decided to change up the language I used when I invited exams this academic year. I stressed the importance of failure in success. I shared stories of my own academic struggles with students, stressing that some topics came naturally, and others were very hard to grasp, and took many hours of self-study outside the classroom to finally take hold. Finally, and what I feel made the biggest difference, I added the simple statement “please do not feel embarrassed to meet with me and review your exam” to my class email. The result? The number of my A&P students who came to review their midterms this year tripled from the five previous years.
For students, it does not always go without saying that we won’t judge their intelligence or ability. Say it. It takes almost no time, but you may see it make a big difference in the number of students who reach out for help. Do the easy things to get them in the door, and they may leave more self-directed, confident students. It may be hard for those of us who work in education to imagine letting embarrassment prevent us from getting better grades, but I’m sure that if we were all honest with ourselves, we could identify something we avoid because of fear of judgement. Students ultimately have to help themselves, but we can certainly help them get out of their own way.
Dr. Krista Rompolski is an Assistant Teaching Professor at Drexel University.
Do you know a great teacher, someone you feel inspires student success in anatomy and physiology? If you do (and we all do), please consider nominating him or her for the HAPS/ Thieme Excellence in Teaching Award for 2018. HAPS is honored to team with Thieme Publishers to offer this opportunity to recognize one of our own for efforts in the classroom or laboratory.
To qualify to nominate an instructor, you must be an instructor or administrator at an accredited institution in the United States or Canada, have at least two years of experience, and be able to explain why the nominee deserves the award.
The award includes a $1500 cash honorarium and waiver of fees for the HAPS Annual Conference. The recipient will present the “HAPS/Thieme Award for Excellence in Teaching Workshop” during the Annual Conference Workshop Sessions in 2018. We had terrific workshops at the 2015, 2016 and 2017 conferences. This year’s recipient will join an illustrious group that includes Terry Thompson, Mary Tracy Bee and Mark Nielsen.
HAPS Grants and Scholarships Committee
Gail Jenkins was a dynamic teacher and long-time HAPS member. Gail loved teaching. Most of all, she loved to make difficult concepts in anatomy and physiology easily comprehensible to her students. To accomplish this, she employed the “Keep is simple, Sweetie” (KISS) approach. When facing a difficult concept, she’d urge her students to “KISS” it by using everyday analogies or tools to visualize and simplify the subject. Her students loved this approach.
In Gail’s honor and to keep her memory at HAPS alive, Wiley Publishing, in partnership with HAPS, has established the Gail Jenkins Teaching and Mentoring Award. This prestigious award recognizes a HAPS member who:
The award includes a $1000 cash award and waiver of the 2018 Annual Conference registration fee. Award recipients will present a workshop during the workshop sessions at the annual conference.
To qualify for the award, applicants must be HAPS members engaged in teaching anatomy and physiology, must provide an explanation of how engaging learning activities are incorporated into their classes, must provide an abstract of a workshop to be presented at the 2018 conference, and must provide a letter of recommendation from a colleague with direct knowledge of the applicant’s teaching and student interaction. Applicants who can demonstrate a spirit of sharing this approach and mentoring their colleagues will be given preference.
Applications can be found on the HAPS website. The application deadline is December 1st.
HAPS Grants and Scholarships Committee
First, a few questions:
The answer the first question will be at the end, but it’s the second question that is important now. Answer: Community Colleges!
Community Colleges are where thousands of instructors are teaching tens of thousands of students lessons in anatomy and physiology every day of the academic year. Students in these courses often have high hopes – they hope to change their lives by gaining the qualifications to enter allied health professions such as nursing, surgical technology, and emergency medicine. But as most of us know, many students do not complete the two-semester A & P sequence, and others complete the course but do not have high enough grades to continue in the program. The course needs to be difficult; it’s a difficult topic. But too many students are failing.
I recently gave a SoTL (Science of Teaching and Learning) workshop at a community college that had an attrition rate of well over 50% in A & P. The instructors in the program all talked about students being academically ill prepared for the rigors of an A & P course. Other students, they said, were just too busy with work, kids, and “life” to devote the time required to succeed. “Stress” was a common theme; stress caused by financial problems, family problems, and in many cases academic struggles. In the workshop we talked about different strategies that “might help” students who struggle. We can never “save” all our students, but we can improve the present situation. We can help a few students succeed in A & P who otherwise might fail.
During the next month, a group of HAPS members will develop a National Science Foundation (NSF) ISUE (Improving STEM Undergraduate Education) grant targeting the attrition problem in community colleges. If funded, we will work with instructors at community colleges who wish to try out a new teaching practice and conduct a small research project on its effectiveness (i.e., Discipline Based Education Research, or “DBER”). We have to start out small, but if successful we will expand the program to include larger numbers of instructors and community colleges. (And of course, NSF grants are hard to get – but you’ll never get one if you don’t apply!)
Are you teaching at a community college? Are you interested in such a project? If so, read about our project (CAPER) in the text below, which will also be posted on the HAPS List serve later today.
And now the answer to the first question:
(CAPER is the name of our HAPS/NSF research project! So a bonus point if you got that one.)
College Anatomy and Physiology Educational Researchers (CAPER) – We want you!
One topic guaranteed to start up chatter on the HAPS Discussion Board is attrition – the disturbingly high number of students failing and withdrawing from our A & P courses, especially at 2- year colleges. The HAPS Attrition Task Force has spent the past 18 months gathering data to document the problem. The causes are complex, and the solutions equally so, but as HAPS members we posit that how we teach matters. Unfortunately, while many of our members teach at 2-year schools, very little data that we use to inform our practices has actually been gathered at these institutions. We are submitting an NSF grant application to help address this deficiency, and we need participants. We are looking for 6 to 8 instructors at large enrolment community colleges serving diverse student populations who are willing to act as partners and participants in this grant. We want people who love teaching, love their students, and want to develop methods to help their students succeed – especially those who struggle.
Our goal is to identify specific classroom interventions that will reduce attrition in diverse student populations. These interventions will target two important components of student success: conceptual understanding of physiology and psychological distress. Educators involved in this project will work together to develop, implement, and evaluate the impact of curriculum and pedagogy designed to influence one or both of these determinants. We know full well that we cannot “save” all students, but we know that implementing some simple methods into our regular teaching practice can make a big difference our students’ chance of success.
Here is our preliminary plan, but we are interested in working with grant participants to fine-tune the methods.
What Do I Have To Do?
Why? What’s in it for me?
First of all, the educational community needs your input, and data from your students, to inform our practices. Second, it will be FUN. Educational scholarship has the potential to revitalize your teaching, and make your job more interesting, challenging, and satisfying. Third, we will help support your travel to two HAPS meetings (one regional and one national), and there will be a stipend for completion of the manuscript describing your work.
Sounds Interesting….What’s the Catch?
First, all participants will need to talk to their administrators. They must know what you are doing (research on teaching and student retention), support you in your efforts, help secure IRB / Human Subjects approval for you to conduct your project with students, and work with us to collect data on attrition.
Second, the project will work best if we have teams of two or three anatomy and physiology instructors from one community college, city, or region. It isn’t an absolute requirement, but apply with a colleague from your own or neighbouring colleges if you can. It’s even better if your school in involved in a program such as Community College Biology Instructor Network to Support Inquiry into Teaching and Educational Scholarship, or the SEPAL project.
And third, please remember that this is a grant proposal, and there is no guarantee that the grant will be funded. We can only accept 6 to 8 participants for the first year, but, if funded, we would run a second group of 6 to 8 participants in the second year.
Still interested or have questions? Email the project lead, Murray Jensen, at email@example.com. Please include as much of this information as possible:
We need to have the list of participants finalized by November 21, so let us know if you are interested ASAP!
In 1994 the HAPS Executive Committee initiated a program of modest grants, scholarships, and awards for anatomy and/or physiology faculty and their students. These awards support the mission statement of the Society, which is to promote excellence in the teaching of human anatomy and physiology. Applications for all grants, scholarships, and awards must be submitted online. Links to online applications, eligibility, and additional information can be found on each grant-specific webpage.
The submission deadline for all the scholarships listed below is December 1, 2017. Some of the applications require letters of recommendation, so now is a great time to check them out.
Click on a grant or scholarship to see if you qualify!
The deadline to submit your application for any of the above scholarships is December 1st. So go on and get started!