College Readiness

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my driving forces as a high school teacher is to address and reconstruct my students’ misconceptions. What misconceptions do you find that your students have most often? How do you address them: do you find it’s best to correct them immediately, or let the students struggle with their prior thoughts before they eventually get their “ah-ha” moment?

Similarly, I certainly feel the frustration of my students seemingly not having the necessary requisite knowledge to take Anatomy and Physiology. I do not want to do my students a disservice by not addressing their misconceptions at the appropriate time or not allowing them to build the foundation they will need for college courses. So what things do you wish your students knew before they get to you? What do you find your students are lacking most often? I know many high school students do not have the advantage of taking an Anatomy and Physiology course before entering college, so how can I, as a high school teacher, better prepare my students for you? What kinds of knowledge or information do you think gives students a “leg up” in college?

4 thoughts on “College Readiness

  1. GREAT question Erin! I teach freshman A&P nurses. The #1 thing they are lacking is critical thinking skills. They can memorize materal feverishly, but they often do not realize that this is not the same as understanding it. Problem-solving skills that they learn in mathematics in grade school are disappearing. In general, they need the ability to understand the function of an organ or system rather than memorizing its components.

  2. Great question!

    By covering information quickly (for example – 50 power point slides in one hour) we promote a rote, or maybe even a trivial, understanding of anatomy and physiology. For example, a student may have all the steps of glucose metabolism nailed down (memorized?) and still not understand basic questions like Why do humans need oxygen? How is oxygen used in the body? How long can a human survive without oxygen? Additionally, these students are often able to answer complex questions on multiple choice exams, but still not “get” (or “make sense of” ) the concept of energy.

    So .. teach more concepts, and less emphasis on details. How do you do this when the textbook is over 1000 pages?

    A great place to start is Joel Michale and Jenny McFarland’s article:

    The core principles (“big ideas”) of physiology: results of faculty surveys

    To help students develop a more conceptually accurate understanding of human anatomy and physiology, we need to “teach less” – and focus our energy on the core concepts.
    If this trend catches on, someday we might see a textbook organized around core principals, as opposed to the body systems. That would be cool.

    Short term, the lessons we are developing within our POGIL project begin to hit core concepts. (We’ll be presenting these activities in Las Vegas.) Here is a short blurb on our project if you’re interested:

    • Hi Dr. Jensen! I really enjoy reading your emails and seeing what you are up to in your CIS program and I cannot wait to attend your presentation in Las Vegas.

      I completely agree that a focus on concepts, as opposed to details, is definitely the way to go. I still remember the first time I truly understood photosynthesis (one of my “ah-ha” moments that stands out to me the most), and it certainly wasn’t during my AP Bio class when I memorized every step of the light reactions and Calvin-Benson cycles. Anatomy and Physiology, or any science for that matter, is really no different. Meaningful understanding does not easily stem from rote memorization.

      I am hopeful this trend will catch on, too! Hopefully there is enough interest in this topic from the HAPS Community to continue this conversation and perhaps begin to brainstorm and organize those core A&P concepts at the HAPS Conference! In the meantime, thank you for your reply and the helpful article!

  3. The students I see in Pathophysiology bring some misconceptions from their A&P course and some from their nursing focus.

    From A&P, I get students who think increased pO2 and decreased CO2 ALWAYS go together (and vice versa). For some reason, they also tend to decide the SNS decreases BP — probably because so many of the clinical examples of situations where it turns on feature blood loss.

    From their interest in medicine and nursing, students pick up a habit of reversing cause and effect. ‘The SNS is on because HR has increased.’ They’re telling how they diagnosed, rather than what is going on in the body. It’s funny that I don’t see this problem in the very same students in A&P; it appears later in their programs, when they are trying to apply their A&P to create care plans and diagnosing the patient seems more important than learning the physiological system. This is also a problem for my students who are med techs.

    And I see this same sort of thing in textbooks written by doctors — they will focus on the signs and symptoms first and then go to the mechanism causing them as an afterthought, to an extent that my students sometimes have to read a paragraph backwards to see the cause-effect relationships.

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