Archive | January, 2015

Reasons for Reason

28 Jan
A message from HAPS-President Elect, Betsy Ott.

A message from HAPS President-Elect, Betsy Ott.

I’ll be guiding my students through an introductory exploration of the body’s resistance to disease tomorrow morning. Traditionally, I would start with the types of resistance, the layers of defense, and the components of nonspecific mechanisms before digging into adaptive immunity in a later lecture.  Last semester, however, I started with a conversation about risks to health-care workers due to contagious diseases.  We discussed aspects of risk evaluation, particularly complications of vaccines versus risk of serious illness.  The conversation was lively, and students appeared to internalize not only the information but also the process of analysis. They practiced assessing pros and cons and applying that to their career choices.  Some shared personal stories of family members who couldn’t tolerate vaccines, and we related that to the benefit of herd immunity, so they could see beyond the benefit/risk to a single individual.

I don’t think I’ll have any trouble coming up with examples of cases that crop up when people don’t get vaccinated. There was a local case here in east Texas of an other-wise healthy young man who almost died of complications of flu.  The measles cases in southern California are very recent, but we also had a cluster of cases in the Fort Worth area, centered at a church run by a pastor who was vocal in his opposition to vaccination.  The horrible deaths due to Ebola help remind us all of the ravages of epidemic diseases and the value of vaccination.

Knowing that I would be discussing this in class, I’ve been reading web posts on Ebola, measles, and influenza, but also Big Pharma, toxins in vaccines, and other conspiratorial secrets of mainstream medicine.  I think it’s important to focus on scientific reasoning from the get-go, but also to explore the basis of decision-making by people with limited understanding of physiology and medicine.  I’m dismayed by the uncivil language in many of the comments on web posts, but I read through them anyway, to see if I can glean common threads in the thought processes of people who proclaim their rejection of aspects of modern medicine.  Students in my class might be on the front line of discussions with people making such decisions in the near future, and I want them to be able to demonstrate clear thinking and rational decision making while recognizing the emotional basis of decision making in others. It’s not easy, when claims of competing ‘facts’ aren’t evaluated on their merits.

I remember reading an article on cultural anthropology that explored the ability of individuals to assess risk.  Basically, any tragedy that is personally witnessed is perceived to be a greater risk than any other potential – but unseen – problem, even if the odds of it happening again are quite small.  This is why the risk of dying of measles seems more remote than the possibility of developing autism.

So, I use valuable class time to reinforce and practice the processes of science.  I model and guide the application of logical reasoning to reliable evidence.  I teach students to evaluate sources as well as examine information.  And then, I hope they will use these skills in the real world, to make smart decisions on issues that impact the health of us all.

HAPS News: Primal Pictures-HAPS Scholarship Nominations DUE 2/3/15

25 Jan
A message from the ComCom

A message from the ComCom

In every class, there is at least one student who simply stands out from the rest.  S/he is enthusiastic, motivated, bright, and just gets fired up by learning about Anatomy and Physiology.  S/he is authentically interested in what you have to say and treats the learning experiences you offer as the amazing opportunities they really are.  These rare students often fuel you through each semester, and they truly make teaching the incredibly rewarding profession it is.

HAPS not only values its teaching members, but it values the students who HAPS-PP2-2inspire and fuel these fantastic teachers.  So if you have (or had) a student this year (2014-15) who is particularly exceptional, consider nominating her/him for the Primal Pictures-HAPS Scholarship.

The goal of this scholarship is to promote excellence in anatomy and physiology, encourage innovation and celebrate learning.  The winning student will receive a cash award of $1000, free entry to the Annual Conference in San Antonio, and up to $1100 for reimbursement of travel expenses.

Please consider nominating one of your best students for this award.

NOMINATIONS ARE DUE BY TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3rd.

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 to receive the award.

Resolution Review, and Looking Forward

21 Jan
A message from HAPS President-Elect, Betsy Ott.

A message from HAPS President-Elect, Betsy Ott.

I’m feeling kind of unsettled this month. After taking a break from blogging over the month-long year-end break, I’m finding it difficult to kick-start myself.  In preparing this post, I looked back at my resolutions – and I want to assure you, I’ve kept them as well as I can.  Although, I did have a student today ask if he should finish the “pre-lab 2” assignment before or after attending lab 2.  It’s hard to know how much clearer I can make assignment titles.

I spent quite a bit of time over the holiday break refining my courses, particularly the online instructions.  I actually had a student tell me she was intimidated by how much she was going to have to wade through just to start the course.  I’m not sure how to fix that.  I remember when I started teaching microbiology lab, that my pre-lab briefs were pretty short.  As my experience increased, the length of my briefs did, too – I kept adding to the things that could go wrong, as students continued to find new ways to mess up the lab.  So now, I find myself adding to the instructions about how the course works, to the point (apparently) that students are overwhelmed by the instructions before they even get to the content.

So, I’ve decided to look for expert help.  I will ask our resident instructional designer to review my course orientations, and see if they can be streamlined – or if they are fine the way they are.  I”m reading about teaching and learning, which I’ll report on in future posts.

Most significantly, I’ve signed up for Valerie O’Loughlin’s HAPS-I course on educational research.  After thirty-plus years of being a professional educator, I suppose it’s high time I actually get some professional development on education.  I’m looking forward to creating a system of asking, and answering, questions about how my students learn and what I can do to facilitate their success.  Particularly as I am chair of the college’s General Education Committee, I feel compelled to collect meaningful information that measures parameters that matter, rather than just what is easy to quantify.

One of the best aspects of a HAPS-I course is the interaction with peers.  With a focus on a specific outcome, the quality of discourse can be amazing, and I’m looking forward to working with HAPS colleagues to explore aspects of metacognition and the scholarship of teaching.  I encourage you to join us – or to find some other avenue to enhance your scholarship of teaching.  Have a great spring semester!

Betsy Ott
President-Elect

HAPS Web 15- Partnering with the LifeSciTRC!

19 Jan
APS Life Science Teaching Resource Community

Access HAPS resources from the Life Science Teaching Resource Community directly from the HAPS website!

Welcome back from the holiday!  The Communications Committee (responsible for maintaining this blog) took a restful break and we’re fired up and ready for a new set of fun blog posts.

Not surprisingly, while the Communications Committee (fondly known as the ComCom) was enjoying good food, the rest of the HAPS leadership was hard at work maintaining this great organization.  True to the theme describing all the amazing resources HAPS has to offer its members, today’s post is about a new partnership garnered over the break.

HAPS works hard to provide its members with high quality teaching resources and the intention of this blog theme is to make sure HAPSters know what is available to them.  And true to form, instead of sitting back and admiring the good work that has been done, the HAPS leadership has been busy pursuing additional resources and conveniences for its membership.  This is evidenced by a recent addition to the HAPS website.

HAPS enjoys a strong partnership with the American Physiological Society (APS).  This is the society that maintains the Life Science Teaching Resource Community (formally known as the APS Archive of Teaching Resources),  which was featured in a series of HAPS blog posts last year.  HAPS has always been a partner with APS and has actively contributed resources to the LifeSciTRC.  For example, materials developed in HAPS-I courses have always been published in the LifeSciTRC.  However, in the last few weeks, HAPS Executive Director Peter English has taken this partnership a step further.  Peter put together a page within the HAPS website that explicitly brings together the materials from these HAPS-I courses since 2012!  The resources are organized into collections that put all course content in one easy to access link.

So check out this latest addition to the wealth of resources found on the HAPS website.