“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.