CAPER is back!

The Community College Anatomy and Physiology Educational Research Program (CAPER) is back in a new, longer format (IUSE 2111119). CAPER is a multi-layered program focused on evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs) and educational research with Community College (CC) Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) instructors. At the foundational level, CC instructors will design classroom research projects to evaluate the impacts of EBIPs on student success and classroom engagement. The CC instructors will also administer questionnaires to their A&P students regarding their attitudes towards EBIPs, their sense of confidence in their academic abilities, and their level of anxiety in the classroom. This data will provide much-needed insight into the efficacy of EBIPs in CC A&P classrooms. Furthermore, the CAPER research team will administer interviews and questionnaires to CC instructors throughout the project to gain insight into changes in instructors’ beliefs and perspectives on teaching. An additional intention of CAPER is to create a long-term community of practice among CC A&P instructors around the US and to study the impacts of communities of practice on the instructors.

This five-year program will include four cohorts of ten to twelve CC A&P instructors. Each cohort will attend a semester-long pedagogy course followed by a semester-long research course. During this year, the A&P instructors develop their individual research plans. The second year is devoted to A&P instructors’ individual data collection, analysis, and dissemination of findings. After submitting their manuscripts to a peer review journal,select members of each cohort are invited to become mentors for the incoming cohort, thus continuing their involvement in the CAPER community of practice.

Outputs of this project will include not only traditional dissemination activities such as conference presentations and peer-reviewed manuscripts, but also a network of opinion leaders and mentors from CAPER project alumni. This network will be positioned to champion pedagogical transformation within their institutions and professional networks. CAPER will actively connect CC instructors with professional communities of practice to support ongoing professional development.

Research Team Bios

Murray Jensen is a faculty member in the College of Biological Sciences, at the University of Minnesota, where he teaches human physiology. Jensen has taught high school, community college, technical college, and university students, and now oversees 30 high school teachers in a dual enrollment physiology program.   Within the CAPER program Jensen is co-teaching the HAPS I course Teaching Practices for Anatomy and Physiology, and oversees all accounting matters for the project. Jensen’s areas of expertise include cooperative group learning, cooperative quizzes, POGIL, guided inquiry, and classroom management.

Audrey Rose Hyson is a post-doctoral fellow for the CAPER program located at the University of Minnesota. Rose has taught English as a second language content courses to middle school, high school, and university students and has worked as a teacher trainer for English teachers in China. Her recent dissertation work focuses on how young people develop their gender, sexual, and racial identities in educational contexts. Within the CAPER program, Rose is a qualitative researcher. Her areas of expertise include identities and education, professional development and cognitive change, English as a second language, equity, diversity, and inclusion, education research design and qualitative data analysis.

Ron Gerrits is a faculty member at Milwaukee School of Engineering where he teaches mainly graduate courses in physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology. Ron’s role in CAPER is to coordinate the Educational Research course, instruct part of the Teaching Practices course, and contribute to overall coordination, planning and the support of instructor projects. His favorite EBIP is guided inquiry, which he uses extensively in his courses.

Megan Deutschman is a PhD candidate in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy & Development at the University of Minnesota. Megan’s research focuses on the whiteness of the teaching force and the ways that white educators uphold, and potentially confront, racism and white supremacy in their classrooms. Prior to her PhD program, Megan was a K-8 classroom teacher both locally and internationally. Within the CAPER program, Megan works as a qualitative researcher.

Melaney Birdsong Farr is a faculty member at Salt Lake Community college where she teaches Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, and runs the college cadaver program. Melaney was a member of the first cohort of CAPER participants, and she now serves as teaching mentor to this cohort of CAPER participants. She has experience with electronic student response systems, case studies, and Think-Pair-Share in the classroom. 

Suzanne Hood is a faculty member in the Psychology department at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Canada. Her role in RE-CAPER is to provide research support to instructors as they design and execute their classroom projects. She is also involved in collecting data from Anatomy and Physiology students about their perceptions of EBIP use in the classroom.

Kerry Hull is a faculty member in the Biology department at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Canada, where she teaches Physiology.  She was the previous Editor in Chief of the HAPS Educator, the peer-reviewed journal of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, and thus serves as the writing mentor for RE-CAPER participants. She uses peer instruction, case studies, concept mapping, and guided inquiry in her classroom.

Chasity O’Malley is a faculty member at the Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where she teaches physiology to various health professions. She has taught at the community college level, four year private and public universities, and at the graduate level, giving her a wide range of experience. She is a graduate of the original CAPER project. Within the current CAPER project, Chasity oversees the mentors and is heavily involved in recruitment of the participants. She also is co-teaching the HAPS I course Teaching Practices for Anatomy and Physiology and is serving as a mentor for the first cohort. Her favorite EBIPs are case studies and problem based learning. She also has used clicker based modalities a lot throughout her teaching. 

Kathy Bell is a faculty member at Salt Lake Community College where she teaches Physiology and Microbiology. She was a member of the second cohort of CAPER participants and is now helping this new cohort as a teaching mentor. She enjoys using cooperative quizzes, case studies, think-pair-share, and guided inquiry in her classes.

Final note: The new NSF grant’s title is Refinement and Expansion of the Community College Anatomy and Physiology Research – or RECAPER.  The original grant’s title was Community College Anatomy and Physiology Research Project – or CAPER (NSF #1829157).  We are calling the new grant “CAPER,” or “the new CAPER,” but technically it should be called RE-CAPER.

For more information about the CAPER project, contact any of the four members of the CAPER leadership team.
Ron Gerrits –
Kerry Hull –
Murray Jensen –
Chasity O’Malley –

HAPS 2021 Conference Day 4

It’s the last day of the 2021 conference and the canine HAPSters made a final appearance. The morning began with a General Membership Meeting that included a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came together to support the HAPS Conference. 

During the General Membership meeting, the locations of upcoming September and November Regional meetings were announced. The 2022 Annual Conference will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. HAPS announced new partnerships with ADInstruments and Cengage. Chastity O’Malley announced the Conference Award Winners: Amanda Haage, Sandra Hutchinson, Robin Wright, and Larry Young. Congratulations! Kyla Ross was introduced as the upcoming HAPS President.

After a morning workshop session, attendees visited Affinity Groups. Groups discussed topics such as inclusivity in anatomy and respect for anatomical donors. We then heard from our final Update Speaker, Albert Chi, who presented “Necessity as the Mother of Invention: Innovation and Health Challenges from COVID-19 to Bionic Arms”. There were a few technical issues at the beginning, but again with a group of awesome HAPSters coming together, we were able to troubleshoot and successfully livestream the talk. The presentation was followed by a final poster session, workshop session, and chance to meet with exhibitors. Krista Rompolski gave a popular and informative presentation about weight stigma.

The conference ended with a Social event in the Main Hall. HAPSters formed chat huddles and said their goodbyes. It was generally agreed upon that the 2022 conference would be a great reunion.

HAPS 2021 Conference Day 3

Day 3 of the HAPS 2021 Conference has come to an end. Wendy started the Main Hall Welcome by acknowledging some canine attendees. Congrats to Dexter for getting his Dogtorate for participating and to Oliver who is teaching his rubber chicken about all he learned!

The day’s events began with Synapse, a popular favorite amongst HAPSters. Burhan Gharaibeh, Marisol Lopez, Meaghan MacNutt, Jill Kirby, Heather Billings, Juno Farnsworth, and Kebret Kebde all presented fantastic talks within their time limit! Great job presenters! Following a workshop session, HAPS held a fun lunchtime event: Meet Your Regional Director. Check out this group of Central Region HAPSters!

In the afternoon we heard from our 5th Update Speaker: Melissa Caroll who discussed “Representation and Anatomical Diversity”. Caroll is the founder of Black in Anatomy 

Today HAPSters visited three more workshop sessions and our third poster session. The evening ended with Exhibitor focus groups. We were reminded to meet with exhibitors and ask for letters to the Word Scramble! Don’t forget! The winner of the Word Scramble contest will receive free registration to the 2022 conference.

HAPS 2021 Conference Day 2

It is Day 2 of HAPS 2021 and our fluffy attendees were at it again. They took center stage in our morning welcome as Wendy shared some pics. We made it through two more Update Speakers, Committee meetings, some Workshops, encounters with Exhibitors, and a Poster Session today. 

Our update speakers provided fascinating new insights. Chris Basler taught us about immunology by discussing interactions between RNA viruses and their hosts using Ebola as a model. We learned how bats’ unique physiology allows them to act as reservoir hosts for many viruses that are deadly to humans. We had a couple of technical issues getting Nikki Jernigan up and running, but with 200+ HAPSters pitching in we managed to troubleshoot and learn about the effects of hypoxia on blood vessels. Hypoxia leads to opposing changes in vascular reactivity. Pulmonary arteries constrict while systemic arteries dilate. 

HAPSters had a plethora of interesting workshops to choose from. For example, we learned about higher order test questions from Gregory Crowther in “From Isolated Data-Analysis Tasks to General Skills: Bridging the Gap with Question Templates”. Amy Toulson, in “Gender, Sex and Sexuality Inclusion in Anatomy & Physiology Education”, discussed making courses more inclusive of various identities. They brought up important points about opening up to your students and acknowledging mistakes. 

Reminder: Check out the items available at the silent auction. Bidding ends tomorrow at 6pm EDT!

HAPS 2021 Conference Day 1

After watching all of Wendy Riggs’ helpful videos, yesterday HAPSters got to try out the Gatherly platform together, and it was amazing! Being able to bump into each other in the lobby and halls makes the event feel HAPSy. Using the elevators to move between floors brought HAPSters to even more meeting places such as Exhibitor floors, Workshops, and Posters. Although we are meeting virtually, the enthusiasm is palpable. It is no mistake that many of the floors are tagged “Fun”. HAPSters often chatted about their struggles in the past year and offered support and ideas. Shannon Howard commented about how she was enjoying meeting so many interesting and fun instructors and learning about their needs. Valerie Kramer spoke to many HAPSters about methods for keeping students accountable in distance learning settings.

Day 1 was packed with three poster sessions and two update speakers. Jacob Babb taught us about EKG basics. From Green et. al. we learned about deaf patient care. The Steering Committee welcomed our First and Second Timers. Sloane et. al. led us in a discussion about diversity and inclusion. There is some serious competition going on the Silent Auction page so keep checking in. We have a ton of other fun events scheduled today! Make sure you check in for the Wheel of Names!

Some HAPSters shared their conference set-up with each other, including some unexpected guests. Graham Whiteside’s adorable tabby KitKat made his way across the screen. Melissa Quinn’s Dexter and Stan made appearances throughout the day. There were also a few baby HAPsters in attendance. All were welcome attendees. 

HAPS 2021 Conference Schedule of Events

The HAPS Annual Conference is one of the best parts of being a HAPS member. Every year we get to meet up, exchange ideas, learn from each other, and have a ton of fun. HAPS is hosting its annual conference online for all members! This is the first in a series of blogs that will keep you up to date on the week’s events. We can’t wait to see you!!

Schedule of Events

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday May 23 to 26 – Update Speakers

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday May 23 – 26 3:35 – 4:35 PM EDT – Poster Sessions
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday May 23 – 26 3:35 – 4:35 PM EDT – Exhibitor Demonstrations

Sunday, May 23 5:30 to 6:30 PM EDT – Welcome Reception hosted by ADInstruments

Monday, May 24 12:35 – 1:40 PM EDT – Committee Meetings

Tuesday, May 25 12:35 – 1:40 PM EDT Meet Your Regional Director

Wednesday, May 26 10:30 to 11:40 PM EDT – General Membership Meeting

Wednesday, May 26 5:30 to 7:00 PM EDT – Social

2 – 3 Workshop Sessions each day throughout conference

Check full schedule for more details:

Follow the HAPS Social Channels!

Use the HAPS Hashtag: #HAPS2021

Facebook Group:

  • Respond to a daily question in the Facebook group about teaching and learning using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Ask a question about the daily workshops or any A&P questions using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Post a video explaining why you think HAPS membership is valuable using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Post a video explaining why you think HAPS conferences are valuable using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • “Gold stars” for points or comments using videos and photos!
  • Tag HAPSofficial in your posts

Post a photo or video of yourself watching the sessions or your screen using the hashtag #HAPS2021


  • Live Twitter chats on update speakers at 8:00 PM EDT May 23rd-26th
    – Follow the HAPS twitter account
    – Login around 8:00 PM EDT and search #HAPS2021Chat
    – We’ll be posting questions and discussing the recorded update speakers talks each day. Come post your thoughts!
  • Post a photo or video of yourself watching the sessions using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Post a video explaining why you think HAPS membership is valuable using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Post a video explaining why you think HAPS conference are valuable using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Search for #HAPS2021 and comment on other members’ posts
  • Tag @HumanAandPSoc


  • Post a photo or video of yourself watching the sessions or your screen using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Post a video explaining why you think HAPS membership is valuable using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Post a video explaining why you think HAPS conferences are valuable using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Search for #HAPS2021 and comment on other members’ posts
  • Tag @humananatomyphysiologysociety in your posts

LinkedIn Group:

  • Respond to a daily question in the LinkedIn group regarding higher education leadership using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Ask a question about the daily workshops or any A&P questions using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • “Gold stars” for points or comments using videos or photos
  • Post a photo or video of yourself watching the sessions or your screen using the hashtag #HAPS2021

Facebook Page:

  • Respond to a daily question on the Facebook page about teaching and learning using the hashtag #HAPS2021
  • Comment on posts on the Facebook page
  • Tag HAPSofficial in your posts
  • Post a photo or video of yourself watching the sessions or your screen using the hashtag #HAPS 2021

Don’t forget your conference Swag!

Axe, Meet Learning Objectives. Part. II: The Lecture

As I write this, I’m putting a bow on the urinary system. Yeah, I’m thinking about all the great stuff we discussed in lecture, but I can’t stop thinking about the “what-ifs”. What if they really needed to know how bicarbonate ions are formed and recycled? What if those type A intercalated cells really matter? What if, but I axed it? Ran out of time. Convinced myself that it’s not important.

The Next Day: I’m commuting to work. I fire up a podcast and my favorite metabolic physician is interviewing an endurance specialist. Together, they are both promoting the importance of, wait for it, bicarbonate ion recycling and blood pH balance. I freaked out. I was careless with my axe and failed to prepare my students. My worst “what if” fear was confirmed.

And here we are today. End of the semester. I’d love to crack some snarky, arrogant statement about not caring. I want to be Bender from the Breakfast Club. “Screws fall out all the time. The world’s an imperfect place.” Truth is, I struggle with this. I do it, though. As stated in the intro for this series, I cut and chop. I feel devilishly liberated, but also nervously frustrated that there is no clean validation for what I teach.

Look at those freakin’ textbooks. It’s an ambush of information. That is the pressure. Because somewhere there is a renal physiologist who insists that the counter current multiplier…thing is of utmost importance. I get it. I do. I’m a neuroscientist and I think Goldman–Hodgkin–Katz voltage equation is imperative for grasping the basics of the nervous system. We win some. We lose some. So how do I decide what stays and what gets the axe? The bag-o-tools drives the format of my class sessions, and backwards design drives the content that makes it past the axe.

The Bag-o-Tools

Tools. Oh, those wonderful tools I stuffed in my tool bag. The ones from the summer teaching workshops. The ones from the webinars (ugh). The ones from great organizations that promote A&P. I want to use them. I will use them. I have a few pedagogical gadgets in my bat utility belt. Always on rotation. No excuses. Just a sample of my favs include the 10 minute chunk. Breaking the lecture into 10min chunks of learning objectives immediately followed by student Q&A.  I also like having students swap notes with a classmate and checking their notes for clarity and organization.  There are several more. Too many to list here. But, I must use them. No excuses

There is a warning label: To effectively use these tools, teachers must momentarily pause lecture.

That’s right. No more Guinness World Records for longest lecture on a single breath. I may sacrifice up to 15 minutes a lecture on class interactions. Definitely losing some content-stuffing yapping time. But these tools will not be sacrificed for the obligation of content volume.  Now that I’ve cemented this immovable criterion, I fill in the remaining measures with…

The Backward Build

Thanks to Brandy Doleshal at Sam Houston State for this one. I plan backwards. I look at the chapter and think about 3, *maybe* 4, big objectives that I want my students to digest. Gotta cover the basics. Which means I need to define what the basics are. I go through each section of that chapter. I write my mini objectives that support and align with my 3 (maybe 4) big objectives. As I plan and scheme, I remind myself of the time constraints courtesy of the first criterion. The axe starts axing. The scraps fall to the floor. There’s some quality stuff that doesn’t make the team.

But. But. But. Yes, Jordan’s tortured head, I hear you. After further review of your own self-imposed criteria, the Goldman–Hodgkin–Katz voltage equation will be omitted.

So what does all of this look like? The lectures = lean. The presentation slides = digestible. There is calmness (that, or they’re asleep).  We talk and uncover confusion and misconceptions before pushing forward.

So how do I feel? There is that sweet temptation to abandoned the bag-o-tools. Maybe just for one lecture because I really want to cover this or that. Just one lecture and I’ll reinstate criteria 1 next time. I PROMISE. Nope. I resist. And I know some of the dirty tricks to circumvent the system. Record mini lectures with additional material not covered in class. Let the students watch and review from the comforts of home. No way!  That’s dishonest to my criteria.

Next, we’ll walk down the stairs and across the hall to the lab. For some reason, I don’t have the anxiety about hacking up the lab content. Maybe because it’s been a long time coming. The list and more lists. Watching all those identified structures, under intense hydrostatic pressure, blow out of their skulls as soon as they out the lab. I’m feeling a bit snarky for this next installment.


Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids.

Axe, Meet Learning Objectives. Part. I: Introduction

Cue wavy waterfall effect: Remembering when. The first teaching gig. 12 years ago, I received a huge cement block from the department chair. That cement block was the A&P textbook. My first teaching gig.  I didn’t even blink. All I did was nod and shrug. Afterall, I had an extensive archive of science smarts from years of undergrad, grad, and postdoc imprisonment.

Volume and intensity. That comes with science territory. I can do it and so will these 18yo students. So, the routine began. Each class loading up 1GB of lecture slides and letting the geyser of A&P erupt. And I did this…for a while…like years.

Let me take a second to throw some innocents under the bus. At the time my colleagues were doing the same thing. In fact, we seemed to take pride in this tortuous exercise. One week of the semester remaining? Sure, I’ll squeeze in the entire autonomic nervous system chapter and, for grins and giggles, the senses chapter. It can be done. The students just need to listen faster!  

An enthusiastic Dr. Clark with his pile of slides ready to rock!
An enthusiastic Dr. Clark with his pile of slides ready to rock!

Cue wavy waterfall effect: Remembering when. The first crack in the system. Do you remember when you noticed? A couple of semesters ago, I stumbled upon a podcast from a stand-up comedian. On her podcast, she described stage presence and reading the crowd. Knowing when the jokes are working and when it’s time to improvise. Her description of comic timing and body language resonated with me as the overlap with teaching was never more obvious. The next class I applied some of those comedic strategies. I read the audience….and wow… I was losing them. I improvised. Moved around more. Got animated. Anything to make the information stick. The crowds’ reaction? Frantically scribbling blocks of run-on sentences or slipping into a defeatist’s coma. This method was not working, but what method would? 

Falling asleep in class by John (
Falling asleep in class by John

To fix this, I enrolled in a lengthy year-long workshop learning some amazing teaching strategies and classroom management. I built up such a library of techniques that I had to refrain myself from unleashing it all in a single class. But, the opposite happened. Very little, if any, novel strategies were implemented. Why? No time!!! To make good of these strategies required me to momentarily pause my slides, stop lecturing, let students interact, and miss some, maybe a lot, of the detail.

Then, I had an out of body experience, and my astral projection slapped me in the face several times. “Wake up! It’s not working. 90% of blabbing is seeping out of their ear.” 

2020 SPRING EMERGENCY ONLINE TRANSITION (because of…well, you know). It was now or never. No one was looking, no one would ask any questions. I seized the opportunity. I hacked away at the remaining chapters for the semester. And I did it again in the summer…and the fall. And doing it as I write this globally anticipated blog entry.

Oooohh…so liberating. I had time. Time to do things in class. But, why am I so dang nervous?. And scared? Why does this not seem right? Over the next two installments, I’m going to lay out what, how and why I purged materials. I discuss strategies, rewards and mistakes of this reformation. Not just the lecture, but also the lab…yes, I’m talking to you with the 200-item spreadsheet of skeletal muscles (and that’s just axial). I’ll address the 3 big questions

  • Did I cut too much?
  • Are they learning enough?
  • Did I make the course too easy?


Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids.

New Teaching Tips Submission Process

This post is provided by the HAPS Curriculum and Instruction Teaching Tips Review Team

For more than two decades, HAPS members have been sharing Teaching Tips (formerly EduSnippets). These Teaching Tips are descriptions of learning activities that others in the HAPS community may find useful for their own teaching practices. The Teaching Tips often include both instructor’s guides and formative assessments.  They are published on the HAPS Teaching Tips Website, grouped by HAPS Learning Outcomes, and available to all HAPS members. 

We are excited to share with you that the Curriculum and Instruction Committee has recently updated the Teaching Tip format and submission process!

One of the improvements we have made to the HAPS Teaching Tips is a consistent format, including a uniform header, with a brief description (summary abstract of 100 words or less), intended audience, keywords/terms, approximate time for completion, and type of activity (case study, demonstration, discussion, etc.). We hope that this will make it easier to determine if a Teaching Tip might be useful for you and your teaching!  We have also added a *NEW FEATURE* — if the Teaching Tip addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion, if it includes accommodation suggestions for students, and/or if it is adaptable for remote instruction that information will now be directly noted on the Tip’s header.

As a reader, you can expect all Teaching Tips to include student activity pages (i.e. student worksheets, guided problem sets, in-class clinical cases, etc.), a formative assessment with answer key/rubric, as well as a detailed instructor’s guide.  

Submission deadlines for HAPS Teaching Tips are January 15, March 15, May 15, July 15, September 15, and November 15. Each submission will be evaluated by the HAPS C&I Teaching Tips Subcommittee Review Team. Accepted Teaching Tips will appear on the website within six weeks.

We are currently calling on all HAPS community members to consider submitting a Teaching Tip for our upcoming May 15th deadline! Those interested in preparing a submission are invited to review the HAPS Teaching Tips Instructions. Not only are HAPS Teaching Tips peer-reviewed (a great addition to your professional portfolio!), they are also a terrific opportunity to showcase your teaching expertise and be recognized by your professional organization. 

We look forward to reviewing your submission! 

Links to sample Teaching Tips (in the new format):

Pelvic Vasculature Guided Demonstration 

Short Case Study of the Urinary System

C&I Teaching Tips Review Team

Danielle Bentley
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member 
Assistant Professor, teaching stream Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Abbey Breckling
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member 
Clinical Instructor Kinesiology & Nutrition Department Anatomy & Cell Biology Department University of Illinois at Chicago 

April R. Hatcher, PhD
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member
Associate Professor, Anatomy, Embryology, and Histology Department of Neuroscience University of Kentucky Lexington, KY

Jessica Loomis, M.S.
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member
Professor, Biological Sciences Department of Biology Cincinnati State Technical & Community College Cincinnati, OH

Ellen Krumme, DC, MS
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member 
Associate Professor in Arts and Sciences Galen College of Nursing, Cincinnati Ohio

Edgar R. Meyer, M.A.T., Ph.D.
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member
Assistant Professor Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, Division of Clinical Anatomy, College of Medicine University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Wendy Rappazzo
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member 
Professor, Biology Harford Community College
Bel Air, MD

Rachel Hopp
Chair of HAPS C&I Committee
Assistant Professor in Biology University of Louisville

My Experience in Striving for Equitable Education in A&P Curriculum: Why it Matters to my Students

I want to invite you to read some words that may make you uncomfortable, and I encourage all of my readers to read, reflect, and keep an open mind. We often find our greatest opportunity for growth by stepping outside our realm of comfort and into an arena of discomfort. Use the movement from comfort to discomfort as an opportunity to understand how our identities lead to bias and create a lack of equity among our students.

As educators, our experiences shape biases and these biases can create disadvantages for students. The biases we carry can influence how we teach and respond to students. Likewise, how our students participate and engage with faculty and course content is influenced by their biases, experiences, and preconceived expectations of us and the course content.

The start of each semester presents me with an opportunity to remember that my students bring their own cultural and societal experiences and biases, impacting how they experience my courses. Cultural humility, which involves recognizing and reflecting on the difference between my own culture and identity and the cultures and identities of my students, requires ongoing reflection and growth on my part to understand who my students are. I have realized that in order to create a more equitable and inclusive classroom, where all students are valued and respected, I must practice cultural humility and acknowledge my students’ differences in race, ethnicity, class, sex and gender.

Why do the identities of students and instructor matter at all? The mistrust that underrepresented minority (URM) students have in white faculty has been building for decades due to personal experience, discrimination and mistrust within our medical and legal systems, and an increase in social justice unrest. The oppressive stresses felt by URM students in society are carried into the classroom and intensified when URM students see white professors as authoritarians.

According to a 2017 Pew Research looking at college faculty and student diversity, 76.5% of all faculty that students encounter is white. Comparatively, according to the AACU, students of color enrolled in undergraduate education, in 2016, comprised 45.2 percent of our student population. At the graduate level, students of color represented 32.0 percent of enrollment.  This means that only 23.5% of college professors represent communities of color.

To give an idea of how my institution compares to the research, during the 2019-2020 academic year 84.8% of the faculty identified white, compared to 8.9% of the faculty identified as Black and 4.3% of faculty identifying Hispanic. Our student body is 26% Hispanic, 17% Black, and 48% White. Our total population of students of color is 43% of the student body, but faculty they can identify with only make up 13.2%. URM students are enrolling in courses and being educated by professors who cannot empathize with or relate to social, family, and justice experiences. How does your institution compare with the data?

I believe that the biases brought to the classroom by URM students requires me to work harder to break down barriers of race, sex, and gender and establish trust with my students that allows for greater success and perseverance. The delay in establishing instructor-student trust relationships is sometimes the culprit behind the achievement gap seen at community colleges. In a report published in 2014 in the JSTOR, researchers found that the performance gap (withdrawal rate and grade performance) for students of color enrolled in courses taught by instructors of color was reduced by 20-50%.

This data is reinforced by my own experiences, and consequently, I owe it to my students to not be a gatekeeper of their education, to not subscribe to a fixed mindset. We must see our students’ color and attempt to unravel their biases; it is only in seeing color that we can start to understand their experiences, history, and biases that they bring to our classrooms.

Diversity Hands by Kolette Draegan

What are some “quick to implement” strategies in building trust with your students? Here are changes that I have made to build relationships with my students.

  1. I start with my syllabus. It is the first introduction to me that students have. So consider: Is it inclusive? Is the syllabus written in a “negative” or “penalizing tone”? What support do you outline in your syllabus? Do you identify your pronouns after your name?
  2. I take risks. I inject personal stories of difficult periods of my journey and allow students to share their stories. I listen to and validate their stories. In doing so, I validate my student’s experiences. In becoming vulnerable, students will see you as being human and relatable to them.
  3. I am mindful of words spoken. I correct instances of microaggression within my classes. I also need admit when I misspeak or engage in microaggression-infused conversations, even with colleagues.
  4. I recognize my own privilege. I acknowledge it, and I use the acknowledgment to start discussions of race and sexuality within my courses. I allow students to express their experiences, encourage different views – made sure to allow and encourage ALL students to offer opinion, even if it had already been spoken.
  5. I am open about my support of students of color. I hang fliers on my office door that promote DEI events on my campus. I participated in Safe Zone training on my campus and display the insignia on my door, scanned it and put it in my syllabi, visually showing support with my words and action.

More specific ways to increase inclusiveness will be the topic of future blogs in this series.

We owe it to our students to be the best advocates for inclusive, equitable educational practices and for working collaboratively with peers to support greater diversity in our classrooms, departments, and fields of study. What challenges with developing cultural humility can you perceive? What changes can you make to your classroom to break down barriers caused by our different identities? What steps can you take in earning your students’ trust in order to transform their educational experience?

Larry author picLarry Young is Professor of Biology and Anatomy & Physiology at Polk State College in central Florida. In addition to his teaching, Larry works with the colleges Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program as a research mentor and campus coordinator/club advisor. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Richard Stockton University, New Jersey in 2000 and his Masters in Life Science at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2008. His work in DEI education has led him to incorporate social justice relationships to A&P content taught within his courses. He also teaches Biology of Sexuality and Gender. When not teaching and hanging with HAPS humans you can find Larry, and his wife Niqui, paddle boarding in the Gulf of Mexico, enjoying the beach, working out, and when traveling, finding the local distilleries and breweries to enjoy the regional flavors, but also learn of the history, experiences, and diversity of communities brought together by some yeast, grains, and patience.