HAPS Leadership (#2): Testing Committee

Let me tell you about the HAPS Steering Committee.  It is made up of the chairs of various committees within the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society.  These committees cover such diverse topics as Animal Use and Cadaver Use, Marketing and Membership, Communication and Safety.  I’ll introduce you to the chairs of each of these committees over the next several weeks, but today I’d like to spotlight one committee in particular.

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The Testing Committee came about approximately eleven (11) years ago after an enthusiastic annual conference in Phoenix (2002).  During that conference, several Steering Committee (SC) chairs heard from conference attendees that we should consider building a centralized database of exam questions that all members could use.  There were a few workshops that directly tied into that theme, which got these discussions percolating even more.  Over the course of the next year, this topic kept popping up in Board and Steering Committee meetings until it was decided to investigate this idea.  We recruited a few HAPS members to create a task force to research the idea.  Their report to the SC and the Board recommended the creation of a HAPS Comprehensive Exam that could be used by multiple institutions to evaluate their course against others across the country.  From there, we created a standing committee to tackle this project.

Along the way, the Curriculum & Instruction committee created a standardized set of student learning outcomes for Human Anatomy & Physiology courses.  The Testing Committee decided that it made sense to design our exam around these learning outcomes.  People came and went through the committee.  Versions of the exam developed and were implemented at various campuses.  Unfortunately, the energy began to stall as we simply didn’t have enough test questions to create a strong enough exam.

Eric Sun
Eric Sun
Curtis DeFriez
Curtis DeFriez

Enter Eric Sun and Curtis DeFriez.  These two gentlemen became co-chairs of the Testing Committee and re-infused it with energy and focus.  They sought out exam questions from the membership, sorting them according to the learning outcomes.  They created different iterations of the exam to see what would work best.  I have to say; they’ve put in a lot of work on this exam and it shows.  It’s been amazing to see the volume of work they’ve had to go through to create our newest exam.

The Testing Committee is pleased to unveil the new Online HAPS Comprehensive Exam for this next round of testing (starting at the end of this semester – December for most of us).  Working with Chi Tester software (our online testing service), we will now be able to give users almost immediate results of their testing data.  We will be able to provide reliable information about that data using comparisons to institutions of similar type, size, and geographic location.  If you are curious to learn more about the Online HAPS Comprehensive Exam, you can email Eric at esun@hapsconnect.org or Curtis at cdefriez@hapsconnect.org.  For questions about ordering the exams, contact admin@hapsconnect.org or 1-800-448-4277 (USA).  The HAPS Leadership is very proud of the work of the Testing Committee in the development of this exam and appreciate the hard work of all of its members.  Pencils ready!

HAPS Leadership (#1): The president-elect

Meet the HAPS Board of Directors
Meet the HAPS Board of Directors

Our president, Valerie O’Loughlin, blogged recently about our mid-year meeting in Jacksonville.  She explained how the Board of Directors (BOD) and the Steering Committee (SC) meet for an extended weekend to get a lot of work done.  It was a very productive time, allowing us to clearly work through the budget for this year, see the status of work on the 2014 Annual Conference in Jacksonville, begin our next round of Strategic Planning meetings, and anticipate any other business that might crop up in the coming months.  We got a lot done, but we also enjoyed each other’s company and renewed bonds of friendship and camaraderie that reinforces why we took on these leadership roles.  As the president-elect, I observed Valerie lead the meetings and offered input when I could.  Until this year, I had been the Chair of the Steering Committee for a number of years, so I was quite familiar with the workings of the mid-year meeting.  However, I have to admit it was strange to now be part of the “Executive Branch” after several years in the “Legislative Branch“.

One of the topics that was discussed during the mid-year meeting was this Blog.  There has been a lot of enthusiasm for this blog and we wish to keep making it as useful as possible.  One original purpose of the blog was to give everyone a peek into the workings of the HAPS leadership.  We realized that we had lost some of that direction.  So, here I am.

As president-elect, one of my tasks will be to offer you a view of the leaders of the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society.  I’ll be posting each Wednesday on a different position within the BOD or SC, offering you some insight into their work as well as their personality.  I’ll be interviewing the various HAPS leaders, letting them offer you their take on their position, what they have put into it, and what they have gained from it.  Willing to put my money where my mouth is, I volunteered to be the topic of the first entry in this blog series.

At the 2013 Annual HAPS Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, I was elected as the president-elect for HAPS.  That translates into a 3-year commitment.  During this current academic year, I am the president-elect.  My main job is to learn how to be the president.  I attend the monthly e-meetings, keep up on the email chatter, and field occasional phone calls within the BOD and SC.  I participate in discussions led by our president while anticipating how I will lead the Society in the coming year.  During the 2014-2015 year, I will be the President, taking the helm of this incredible organization.  I will set the agendas for the BOD meetings, interact with other educational societies, and develop President’s Initiatives for my tenure (I’ll let President Valerie tell you more about that idea in her blog entry).  My year as president will culminate with presiding over the 2015 Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas.  During the 2015-2016, I will serve as Past President, updating the Policy & Procedures manual while offering advice and institutional memory to the new President of HAPS.  That’s sums up my three years in a nutshell.

BallotThere is one other major duty that I have as president-elect.  I serve as the Chairman of the Nominating Committee.  I gather a committee of individuals to create a slate of candidates for next year’s elections.  The four positions on the BOD that will be up for election are President, Treasurer, Western Regional Director, and Eastern Regional Director.  We’ll contact individuals, asking if they would be interested in running for these various positions.  After we’ve cajoled and bribed enough people to fill the slate, we’ll put together a ballot on the website.  It will be open for your vote during the spring, with the winners of the various races announced before the next Annual Conference.


It is so exciting to be part of the HAPS leadership.  I could go on and on, but I know when it’s time to stop and take a breath.  If you have any questions about the HAPS leadership, feel free to email me at TLehman@HAPSConnect.org.  Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for the next entry in this blog.  Next week, I’ll tell you about two gentlemen who are doing incredible things with test questions.

17- My First “Cooperative Quiz”

Lovely guinea pig with shiny hair...and cooked guinnea pig for dinner.  Images from Wikimedia.
My students always end up being my guinea pigs…the question is just whether they will end up looking like the pig on the left or the pig on the right.

Today is EXAM DAY.  My students had an External Brain exam this morning and will take their written and practical exams this afternoon.  Their 20 question External Brain exam emphasized case-study like applications of the content, and students were allowed to use their self-created External Brain resource on this exam.  Inspired by Murray Jensen’s September 25th HAPS blog post on cooperative quizzes, I decided to add a cooperative component to today’s External Brain exam.   So my students first took the 20 question exam individually, and turned in their results.  Then I placed them in randomly selected groups of 3 and let them re-take the exam with this group.

When I proposed this idea to my students last week, there was a little bit of eye rolling…they are used to me trying new things on them.  I assured them that my end goal was to improve their understanding (and even threw in the added bonus that they would identify any big misconceptions BEFORE taking their written and practical exams later in the day).  They agreed to be my guinea pigs…again.

I have yet to grade the External Brain exams to see how they did.  However, there were several parts of the experience, just from my initial observations, that I felt were really successful.  First, I loved the discussion that happened surrounding each question.  As I continue the quest to make active learning happen during my classes, I’ve become addicted to the eruptive sounds of students discussing content.  I know I have asked a good question when they are vigorously debating the answer.  I love that they become so animated and energetic.  This definitely happened during the group portion of the exam.  Second, I loved the instantaneous feedback students got on their understanding.  There was one question I asked about sarcomeres and from the conversation afterwards, it was very clear that they really didn’t understand how the sarcomere changes during muscle contraction.  I know that if I had just done a traditional written exam, I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to tease out the misconception that resulted in the errors.  Finally, I loved that the exam became about LEARNING…because I do think they at least had the opportunity to learn something from the experience.

For once, I’m actually excited to grade their External Brain exams and compare their group work to their individual work.  I am a little disappointed that I forgot to ask them a survey question at the end of the group exam, because I am very curious about how THEY perceive the experience.  First thing Wednesday morning, though, I will be probing their little guinea pig brains…

Flipping A & P: Taking a Hit


I’m so glad that my Associate Dean warned me about the hit I would take on my student evaluations when I decided to flip my courses. Without that warning, I would have been devastated by the response after my first flipped semester. It still stung a bit.

Now, I have never been voted “favorite teacher” by students. I teach a difficult subject, I don’t bend the rules laid down in the syllabus and those rules are pretty strict about due dates and make up work. I have also expected my students to be able to think critically and not just memorize the material. In other words, I’m “hard”. Even so, my evaluations were always pretty good. Then, I flipped.

Some students enjoyed the new format. Here are some direct quotes from their anonymous course evaluation comments.

“I greatly enjoy Prof Kohrman’s class. She keeps class interesting and I enjoy everything she is doing.”

“I’ve enjoyed this class because it requires me to think critically and put forth a lot of effort. I have learned a lot!”

Others weren’t as enthusiastic, to put it mildly. These are excerpts; their full comments were usually MUCH longer. Some accompanied by suggestions that I should be fired.

“Ms. Kohrman is a good teacher, however I do not like her teaching style. She does not lecture at all. It is the weirdest format I have ever seen in a college class, however I am doing well in it.”

“I think that it would help the students if the instructor would lecture in the class, instead of always just doing clicker questions, group work, and handouts.”

“I believe Kohrman has the potential to be an effective teacher but her methods of teaching are non-learnable. I am in class to be taught not to be questioned on material I studied before I came to class but was never taught.”

“By far the very worst instructor I have ever had! I am well aware that anatomy is not an easy subject to begin with but when you have an instructor that doesnt teach, it makes it even harder.”

I’m always amused by comments that the student had to “learn everything themselves”, as if information is just downloaded to their brains during lectures. But I do take student evaluations seriously and I have made some changes based on comments I have received. I do a lot of mini-lectures now during clicker questions, especially when the students don’t seem to understand a specific topic. I also make charts and drawings on the white boards to help organize material. I think the balance is better between lecturing and flipping now.

I am very lucky to be at a community college that is really interested in student learning and not just enrollment numbers or completion rates. I haven’t been fired. In fact, I received a merit bonus award and was the recipient of the Somerset Community College Faculty Award of Excellence for 2013.*

*Your results may vary.

HAPS Midyear meeting – where, when, and why?

Planning for HAPS 2014 requires a midyear meeting of the HAPS leadership in 2013!

One of my jobs as HAPS President to plan the agenda for the HAPS Midyear meeting.  This meeting is an opportunity for the Board of Directors (BOD)and the Steering Committee (SC) to meet face-to-face to discuss HAPS business.  We typically meet in mid-October over the weekend, and the agenda is packed.  The location of the meetings varies, but we typically try to hold the meeting in the same city and hotel that the next HAPS annual conference will be.  This gives the leadership an opportunity to ‘check out’ our conference locations and do additional planning for the upcoming annual conference.  So, this year, we are traveling down to Jacksonville and staying at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront.

Our meeting is this weekend, and I leave for the trip tomorrow (if i forget to pack anything important for the trip, I blame waiting until the last minute to write this blog entry).  The BOD members arrive Thursday evening in preparation for our all-day meeting on Friday.  By Friday evening, most of the Steering committee arrives.  Then, on Saturday, the Board and Steering Committee meet all day to finalize additional business before we leave for home on Sunday.

‘Why do you all need to meet face to face?’ you ask?  Both the BOD and SC each have monthly e-meetings, where we use an asynchronous discussion forum to discuss HAPS business.  In addition, the BOD has a monthly conference call to continue discussing the items brought up in our e-meetings.  We get a lot of stuff done during these e-meetings and conference calls, but these formats have their limitations.  There is some business that simply needs to be discussed  face-to-face, or over a longer time than a typical conference call lasts.  Our ‘physical’ meetings can be much more productive than our ‘virtual’ meetings because we are able to focus on HAPS (instead of our teaching responsibilities, family duties and upcoming deadlines).  Some of the business we discuss includes continued planning for the annual conference,  HAPS-I course development, finalizing and approving the organization’s yearly budget, and brainstorming the future of the organization.

The midyear meeting gives us a chance to reconnect and remember what makes HAPS so special – it is the long-term friendships with each other and our shared commitment to excellence in A&P education.  After our meetings, we get together for dinner and share a laugh or two (or 100).  I always leave a midyear meeting feeling like I left my 2nd family, and am energized to take HAPS to its next level.

So when people ask me why I volunteered for HAPS leadership positions and ran for President, these are some of the reasons why – I get to be a part of the growth and development of an organization I love, and do this with people I consider my second family.  🙂  It is a tough job, but one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve had!

16- Student Thoughts on the Riggs-Style External Brain

Mayb I be excused?  My brain is full.
Whose brain gets tired when studying Anatomy?!

At the beginning of every class this semester, I ask my students to answer two questions.  First, I ask them how much “flippin'” work they did to prepare for class.  To get a “3” (out of 5), they have to watch the flipped video lecture, complete the External Brain assignment (which often is a rather vague list of suggested questions to think about), and also prep for lab.  To get a 4 or 5, they need to spend additional hours studying.  Their responses are all self-reported…I have no way to verify accuracy, though I implore them to be honest as their feedback informs decisions I make about my pedagogy.  I then ask them to assess the completeness of their External Brain assignment by thinking about how close the document is to where they want it, for use on the External Brain exam.

Now, keep in mind that my students are a highly motivated bunch and with this comes a bit of grade-obsession.  They work hard and they want their grades to reflect their efforts (though we all know “effort” doesn’t always correlate with “understanding”).  So one such motivated student approached me after class the other day and expressed frustration with having to assess his External Brain BEFORE class began.  His complaint, which I found really interesting, was that there was no way his External Brain was complete before class began, no matter how much time he spent working on it.  Lecture and lab always informed improvements and additions he would make to his document, and knowing this, he felt like he had to report a poor grade on the “How complete is your External Brain?” self-assessment. This, of course, didn’t make him happy and he wanted me to know that just because he was reporting a low “readiness” number at the beginning of class, it didn’t mean he wasn’t using the External Brain in the way I was intending it to be used.

His concern made me think about how I am using the External Brain, and I think I agree with him.  For me, the External Brain serves the purpose of MOTIVATING students to prepare adequately for my flipped class.  But really, none of us should expect the External Brain to be a complete and polished document at the beginning of class, because students will be making revisions and additions based on the things that HAPPEN during class and lab.  I think this is a positive thing, because it indicates that not only do the students value the activities that happen during class, but they value their External Brains too.

Flipping A & P: Synergy

Weight Lifter
I WISH this was me!

I work out.  I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I make myself do it for my own good. Sound in mind and body, that sort of thing.

So I was in the college fitness center, using the strength training equipment, when I noticed the weight machine listed the names and locations of the muscles I was using to do that particular exercise. Every machine there did.  That got me thinking about how my students have such problems with muscle locations and names because they don’t seem to associate them with joint movements.  They study each system separately as if they are unrelated.  Hmm, maybe I could use the weight machines to help the students connect the two.

In the past I have tried to help my students connect joint movements and muscle actions by having them tell me all the muscles necessary to do things like ‘Dance the Twist’. (I wish I had a video of those lab days. Very amusing!) But I felt the assignment left something wanting.

Coincidentally, there has been a very interesting conversation about this very topic recently on the HAPS listserv  and that gave me the idea to expand the activity to the skeletal system.  We don’t normally require our students to learn origin and insertion for all the muscles for this course, but they do learn most of the bone features. So last week I gave them a list of joint movements and I had them all follow me over to the fitness center.  Each group had to find a machine that strengthens the muscles that perform each joint movement.  And then they had to do at least 5 reps on it.  I’m hoping the burn will help them remember the location of those muscles.  After that they had to write down the muscles used and their locations, conveniently displayed right on the machines.  Lastly I asked them to tell me the shape of the joint moved and the bone features involved in the joint, tying together the different systems.  The lab practicals will show whether this exercise (literally!) worked or not.  The class was certainly active and engaged.

This activity was possible because of flipping.  This is the best part of flipping, the active learning during class. The students already had the background information so I didn’t have to stand in front of a projector or a white board talking.  Instead we could take our little field trip.

The fitness center supervisor certainly appreciated it.  Many students were unaware the college even had a fitness center and, hopefully, some will sign up for fitness classes.  Sound in mind and body, you know.