Nominate Someone for the HAPS/Thieme Excellence in Teaching Award!

Do you know a great teacher,  someone you feel inspires student success in anatomy and physiology?  If you do (and we all do), please consider nominating him or her for the HAPS/ Thieme Excellence in Teaching Award for 2018.  HAPS is honored to team with Thieme Publishers to offer this opportunity to recognize one of our own for efforts in the classroom or laboratory.

Nominated instructors:

  • Must be teaching anatomy and physiology during this academic year, with an expectation that they will continue,
  • Must be HAPS members, and
  • Must be exemplary teachers

To qualify to nominate an instructor, you must be an instructor or administrator at an accredited institution in the United States or Canada, have at least two years of experience, and be able to explain why the nominee deserves the award.

HAPS-Thieme1
HAPS expresses its thanks to Thieme Publishing for support in the establishment and continuation of this award.

The award includes a $1500 cash honorarium and waiver of fees for the HAPS Annual Conference.  The recipient will present the “HAPS/Thieme Award for Excellence in Teaching Workshop” during the Annual Conference Workshop Sessions in 2018.  We had terrific workshops at the 2015, 2016 and 2017 conferences.  This year’s recipient will join an illustrious group that includes Terry Thompson, Mary Tracy Bee and Mark Nielsen.

Nomination forms and details on award criteria can be found on the HAPS webpage. Deadline for nominations is December 1st, 2017.

Don Kelly
Co-Chair
HAPS Grants and Scholarships Committee

Gail Jenkins Learning and Mentoring Award

Gail Jenkins was a dynamic teacher and long-time HAPS member.  Gail loved teaching. Most of all, she loved to make difficult concepts in anatomy and physiology easily comprehensible to her students.  To accomplish this, she employed the “Keep is simple, Sweetie” (KISS) approach.  When facing a difficult concept, she’d urge her students to “KISS” it by using everyday analogies or tools to visualize and simplify the subject.  Her students loved this approach.

In Gail’s honor and to keep her memory at HAPS alive, Wiley Publishing, in partnership with HAPS, has established the Gail Jenkins Teaching and Mentoring Award. This prestigious award recognizes a HAPS member who:

  • Uses engaging learning activities to help students comprehend difficult concepts and,
  • Is willing to mentor other instructors in this approach.  

The award includes a $1000 cash award and waiver of the 2018 Annual Conference registration fee. Award recipients will present a workshop during the workshop sessions at the annual conference.

To qualify for the award, applicants must be HAPS members engaged in teaching anatomy and physiology, must provide an explanation of how engaging learning activities are incorporated into their classes, must provide an abstract of a workshop to be presented at the 2018 conference, and must provide a letter of recommendation from a colleague with direct knowledge of the applicant’s teaching and student interaction.  Applicants who can demonstrate a spirit of sharing this approach and mentoring their colleagues will be given preference. 

HAPS expresses its thanks to Wiley Publishing for support in the establishment and continuation of this award.
HAPS expresses its thanks to Wiley Publishing for support in the establishment and continuation of this award.

Applications can be found on the HAPS website.  The application deadline is December 1st.

Don Kelly
HAPS Grants and Scholarships Committee

Looking for Community College A & P Instructors Who Wish to Engage in Research on Student Attrition

First, a few questions:

  1.  How many of these abbreviations do you know?
  • SoTL
  • DBER
  • IUSE
  • CAPER
  1.  Where do most students in the USA take entry-level anatomy and physiology?

The answer the first question will be at the end, but it’s the second question that is important now.  Answer: Community Colleges!

Community Colleges are where thousands of instructors are teaching tens of thousands of students lessons in anatomy and physiology every day of the academic year.  Students in these courses often have high hopes – they hope to change their lives by gaining the qualifications to enter allied health professions such as nursing, surgical technology, and emergency medicine.  But as most of us know, many students do not complete the two-semester A & P sequence, and others complete the course but do not have high enough grades to continue in the program.  The course needs to be difficult; it’s a difficult topic. But too many students are failing.

I recently gave a SoTL (Science of Teaching and Learning) workshop at a community college that had an attrition rate of well over 50% in A & P.  The instructors in the program all talked about students being academically ill prepared for the rigors of an A & P course.  Other students, they said, were just too busy with work, kids, and “life” to devote the time required to succeed.  “Stress” was a common theme; stress caused by financial problems, family problems, and in many cases academic struggles.  In the workshop we talked about different strategies that “might help” students who struggle.  We can never “save” all our students, but we can improve the present situation.  We can help a few students succeed in A & P who otherwise might fail.

During the next month, a group of HAPS members will develop a National Science Foundation (NSF) ISUE (Improving STEM Undergraduate Education) grant targeting the attrition problem in community colleges.  If funded, we will work with instructors at community colleges who wish to try out a new teaching practice and conduct a small research project on its effectiveness (i.e., Discipline Based Education Research, or “DBER”).  We have to start out small, but if successful we will expand the program to include larger numbers of instructors and community colleges.  (And of course, NSF grants are hard to get – but you’ll never get one if you don’t apply!)

Are you teaching at a community college?  Are you interested in such a project?  If so, read about our project (CAPER) in the text below, which will also be posted on the HAPS List serve later today.    

And now the answer to the first question:

  • SoTL: Science of Teaching and Learning
  • DBER: Discipline Based Education Research
  • IUSE: Improving STEM Undergraduate Education
  • CAPER: College Anatomy and Physiology Education Research

(CAPER is the name of our HAPS/NSF research project!  So a bonus point if you got that one.)

College Anatomy and Physiology Educational Researchers (CAPER) – We want you!

One topic guaranteed to start up chatter on the HAPS Discussion Board is attrition – the disturbingly high number of students failing and withdrawing from our A & P courses, especially at 2- year colleges.  The HAPS Attrition Task Force has spent the past 18 months gathering data to document the problem.  The causes are complex, and the solutions equally so, but as HAPS members we posit that how we teach matters.   Unfortunately, while many of our members teach at 2-year schools, very little data that we use to inform our practices has actually been gathered at these institutions.  We are submitting an NSF grant application to help address this deficiency, and we need participants.  We are looking for 6 to 8 instructors at large enrolment community colleges serving diverse student populations who are willing to act as partners and participants in this grant. We want people who love teaching, love their students, and want to develop methods to help their students succeed – especially those who struggle.

Our goal is to identify specific classroom interventions that will reduce attrition in diverse student populations.  These interventions will target two important components of student success: conceptual understanding of physiology and psychological distress. Educators involved in this project will work together to develop, implement, and evaluate the impact of curriculum and pedagogy designed to influence one or both of these determinants.  We know full well that we cannot “save” all students, but we know that implementing some simple methods into our regular teaching practice can make a big difference our students’ chance of success.

Here is our preliminary plan, but we are interested in working with grant participants to fine-tune the methods.

What Do I Have To Do?

  1. July to December 2018:  Complete a 1-credit HAPS –I course (Title:  Introduction to Educational Research Methods) that covers basic principles of instructional design and assessment, and the mechanics of carrying out classroom research projects. The course includes online sessions as well as an in-person meeting at a regional HAPS conference in the Fall, and your tuition and travel will be covered by the grant.  We know that many of you are also teaching during this period, so will be asking to commit no more than 3 hours per week for this endeavor during the Fall semester. By the end of the course (probably in early December) you will have a plan for an intervention that you would like to try out, and evaluate, in your course.
  2. While completing the course, you will work with one of the course instructors to refine your classroom research project focusing on your specific student population.  Each participant will test the impact of an intervention on student performance (attrition) and stress levels using tools such as validated student surveys, instructor reports, and/or student interviews.  We will provide you with a list of interventions and research tools to choose from, but participants are also welcome to come up with their own.  For instance, one participant might look at how student stress and performance is impacted by two-stage cooperative quizzes, in which students complete a quiz both individually and in groups (cooperative quiz).  Another participant might decide to investigate if his or her students feel less psychological distress, and/or perform better, if they spend 3-5 minutes at the beginning of each group activity discussing their everyday lives. A third might examine the impact of instituting active learning activities, such as those that will be published in an upcoming Special Issue of the HAPS Educator, the inquiry activities on the HAPS website (HAPS Archive of Guided Learning Activities), or the many teaching tips on the HAPS website (A & P Teaching Tips).  We will also help you get Institutional Research Board (IRB) approval for your project. Note that interventions will be realistic and achievable – we are looking for small-scale interventions, not changing an entire course.
  3. January-May 2019: Carry out, analyse, and write up your classroom research project, with the support of the instructional team.  We hope that all participants can present their findings at the 2019 Annual HAPS conference at the end of May, and we also would encourage participants to submit their findings to the HAPS Educator.
  4. We will also ask each participant to participate in informal entry and exit interviews, in which your will discuss your perspectives on teaching and educational research with an interviewer.

Why?  What’s in it for me?

First of all, the educational community needs your input, and data from your students, to inform our practices.  Second, it will be FUN.  Educational scholarship has the potential to revitalize your teaching, and make your job more interesting, challenging, and satisfying.  Third, we will help support your travel to two HAPS meetings (one regional and one national), and there will be a stipend for completion of the manuscript describing your work.   

Sounds Interesting….What’s the Catch?

First, all participants will need to talk to their administrators. They must know what you are doing (research on teaching and student retention), support you in your efforts, help secure IRB / Human Subjects approval for you to conduct your project with students, and work with us to collect data on attrition.

Second, the project will work best if we have teams of two or three anatomy and physiology instructors from one community college, city, or region.  It isn’t an absolute requirement, but apply with a colleague from your own or neighbouring colleges if you can.  It’s even better if your school in involved in a program such as Community College Biology Instructor Network to Support Inquiry into Teaching and Educational Scholarship, or the SEPAL project.  

And third, please remember that this is a grant proposal, and there is no guarantee that the grant will be funded.  We can only accept 6 to 8 participants for the first year, but, if funded, we would run a second group of 6 to 8 participants in the second year.  

Still interested or have questions?  Email the project lead, Murray Jensen, at msjensen@umn.com.  Please include as much of this information as possible:

  • Names of instructor(s):
  • Name of your school:
  • Number of students enrolled in your anatomy and physiology program each year:
  • A rough estimate of your attrition rate (that is, the percentage of your class that receives a D or an F or withdraws before completion:
  • School involvement in national programs:
  • Name and title of your administrator who will support you in this project:

We need to have the list of participants finalized by November 21, so let us know if you are interested ASAP!   

HAPS Offers Grants and Scholarships!

In 1994 the HAPS Executive Committee initiated a program of modest grants, scholarships, and awards for anatomy and/or physiology faculty and their students. These awards support the mission statement of the Society, which is to promote excellence in the teaching of human anatomy and physiology. Applications for all grants, scholarships, and awards must be submitted online. Links to online applications, eligibility, and additional information can be found on each grant-specific webpage.

The submission deadline for all the scholarships listed below is December 1, 2017. Some of the applications require letters of recommendation, so now is a great time to check them out.

Click on a grant or scholarship to see if you qualify!

The deadline to submit your application for any of the above scholarships is December 1st. So go on and get started!

Teaching Backwards: From Motion to Muscles

Have you taught those boring muscles lately? And those dreaded origins and insertions?

Bored student going through the motions of learning muscle origins and insertions...
Does this look familiar?

And when students get to the exam they are frazzled and sad? Why do we do the same things over and over and wonder why students don’t recall what we teach them? Muscles are one of the most dynamic tissues of the body so let’s teach them dynamically!

Working in healthcare for the past decade has taught me that patient “buy in” usually leads to better outcomes. Interestingly enough, students are the same way. So why not let them pick some of the muscles they have to learn? They can choose based on personal or occupational interest. For example, if your group is interested in occupational therapy, focus on muscles that are involved in activities of daily living. Are they mostly nursing students? Include muscles commonly strained by nurses in their daily practice from poor lifting mechanics or improper conditioning. This could incentivize strengthening to prevent future injuries. Student buy in may develop into personal investment, which enhances their compliance and advances their outcomes. Follow this formula, and see what happens!

Formula 1:  Buy in > Personal Investment > Compliance > Improving Outcomes

It is also important to think about the breadth of material to cover. It’s not essential that  students learn every specific muscle and attachment, and an operational method may enhance recall. Consider the following four step process starting with motion and ending with the muscle. First, focus on the motion desired. Second identify the plane of motion and axis of rotation. Third, isolate the line of action. Fourth, label the primary movers. A possible fifth addition could be offering an everyday example.

Formula 2:   Motion Desired > Plane of Motion/Axis of Rotation > Line of Action > Primary Mover

Are your students having difficulty identifying the plane of motion and axis of rotation? Try this!
Are your students having difficulty identifying the plane of motion and axis of rotation? Try this!

If students have difficulty identifying the plane of motion and axis of rotation, have them poke a pencil through the middle of a large index card. Then place the index card in the plane of motion desired. If the body part contacts the card while going through the full range of motion, they’re in the wrong plane. The axis of rotation will automatically be perpendicular to the plane of motion for easy identification.

Next, they overlay a piece of string to identify a logical line of action across the joint.

String can help students identify the logical line of action across a joint.
String can help students identify the logical line of action across a joint. 

Using this method, students can isolate the muscles in that region responsible for the action. As a bonus, they can suggest an example of how that muscle is used in everyday life.

 

If you have the students pick a few of their own muscles too, be sure they are able to complete the process despite the muscle’s obscurity. I have always included a few interesting muscles for their action, shape or function. For example, the gluteus medius not only performs hip abduction, but also executes hip internal rotation due to its line of action. The temporalis not only functions in mandibular elevation but also retraction. The piriformis, besides being a cute pennant shaped muscle, is the only gluteal muscle with a sole proximal attachment on the sacrum. If you have some high level students, dare them to discover how the gluteus maximus can perform knee extension! How else could a patient with an above knee amputation negotiate stairs in a reciprocal fashion? And if that’s not fun enough, challenge them to identify the motion that occurs if one muscle attachment is fixated and the other is not. For instance, if the distal end of the Biceps Brachii is fixated, by placing the hand under a table, then the trunk will flex forward (unfixed).  Try it with other muscles too! Muscles are dynamic and should be taught that way. Because in the end, we want our students to look like this!

This student is having her "AHA!" moment!
This student is having her “AHA!” moment!

John Zubek is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is an Assistant Professor of  Physiology at Michigan State University. 

Active Learning: A Practical Approach to Implementation

It’s likely that at this point I do not need to convince most of you that active learning can be highly beneficial to student learning.  There is a multitude of resources, including HAPS Educator articles, which discuss successful active learning in a variety of classroom settings.  But here’s the thing. With so many great ideas at our finger tips, where are we supposed to begin if we want to implement active learning in our own courses?  

GOALS

First, step back from the swarm of ideas swirling in your mind and reflect on your goals. What are the goals of your course (which may or may not be content-related)?  Your goals should shape the type of active learning exercise(s) you implement. Here’s what the participants at my workshop at the HAPS Annual Conference in May had to say about their goals with active learning:

Participants in a HAPS worskhop (May 2017) described their goals for active learning.
Participants in a HAPS worskhop (May 2017) described their goals for active learning.

 

PLAN

To ensure your efforts are manageable, start with just one or two sessions.  Upon successful implementation of the initial activity, you can build off it, or incorporating additional methods.  Allow enough time to develop the activity, implement it in class, and give yourself time afterward to assess and for providing student feedback if necessary.  Some (or all) of these steps can take a lot of time!

BUY-IN

This can be tough.  Students will sometimes resist the unfamiliar (i.e. not a standard lecture).  Be transparent.  Explain the goals of the activity, and if appropriate, share evidence to support the activity.  Ensure students that it is of the appropriate difficulty level for them and that you’re there to guide them.  Considering giving credit for participation, especially if it’s a regular part of class.  For more on this topic, check out the Cavannagh, et al. (2016) article or this blog post from Bryn Lutes at Washington University.

RESOURCES

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by Angelo and Cross is a book that will walk you through identifying your goals, selecting appropriate activities for those goals, and it gives you a detailed guide for implementation of the activities and assessment.  Assessment is a critical part of scholarly teaching!  How else will you know if the original goals were accomplished?

Technology.  A simple, yet effective means of incorporating small snippets of active learning into a lecture can be interactive questions.  Similar to “clicker” questions, there are many web-based platforms which enable faculty to easily incorporate interactive questions (multiple formats) into lectures.  It’s an opportunity to give the students practice retrieving informing, as well as allowing instructors to see where students are in their understanding of the material.

Some audience response systems allow students to touch the correct answer on an image, and the data for the whole class shows up as a heat map!
Some audience response systems allow students to touch the correct answer on an image, and the data for the whole class shows up as a heat map!

Low-tech options.  In lieu of all of the apps and high-tech options out there we sometimes forget that a marker board, or pen and paper can be effective tools.  Drawing or writing out a process in a way that is meaningful to students (and maybe incorporating a drawing) is an effective means to promote learning.  Get creative with other materials too!  Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers make a great model of vascular supply, and playdoh, pipe cleaners, paper, etc. can be used to model many different body parts.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of resources available for us to use in teaching, I hope it helps you get started.  Establish your goals.  Pick an activity to meet those goals. Plan well, and don’t forget to include assessment!  Happy teaching!


Cavanagh, A.J.,  Aragón, O.R., Chen, X., Couch, B.A., Durham, M.F., Bobrownicki, A., Hanauer, D.I., & Graham, M.J. (2016). Student buy-in to active learning in a college science course. CBE Life Sci Educ 15(4).

Michael, J. (2006). Where’s the evidence that active learning works? Adv Physiol Educ 30: 159-167.

Pierce, R., J. Fox. (2012). Vodcasts and active-learning exercises in a “flipped classroom” model of a renal pharmacotherapy module.  American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 76(10): 1-5.


Audra Schaefer is an Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology who teaches neuroanatomy and histology to first year medical students.  She oversee multiple systems-based integrated courses that are part of the first two years in the medical curriculum.  She also conducts educational research, with interests in metacognition, study skills and remediation.

Getting Them out of Their Funk

Muscles and bones, bones and muscles. How many times have my students learned the deltoid tuberosity in the bone unit, only to complain that they have to learn all these bone names as part of their muscle attachments?! Many of my students come in thinking they are going to simply learn the names of the bones, having little understanding that there is a whole world of terms for bone landmarks. To help my novice students become proficient, I have made two changes.

muscle-attachmentsHistorically, my labs followed a 2 week period of appendicular and then axial bones, followed by a 2 week period of appendicular and then axial muscles. My students scraped an average of around 67% on their weekly practical quizzes. They always did slightly better with their bones, and then much worse with their muscles in part due to that muscle attachment component. I wanted more, so I flipped to appendicular bones one week, followed by appendicular muscles the next week. Their averages went up to 78% for the unit, but I still got a little of the whining related to bone landmarks. Their scores were higher on bone weeks and lower on muscle weeks, so I switched to regional study of the body, bones and muscles of the leg one week, the arm the next and so forth.  For the last three years, my averages for this unit have settled around 75%, but the students are making the connections between bone landmarks and their muscle attachments.

muscle-to-attachmentI remember when I took A&P, my lab instructor handed me a Rubbermaid with the bones for that week and said, “Get to it!” I had the “luxury” of having previously taken  Comparative Anatomy class, so 5 of my peers worked with me to learn the material. Most of my peers left lab and were overwhelmed. So when I started teaching A&P, I tried to help the students whose strategies mimicked my classmates’, but I kept running into an almost total mental shut down the moment I handed out their term list for the week. So I made a second change. Now my labs have 6 stations and students spend about 15-20 minutes at each station. Each station has an objective, which also helps the students chunk up the material into manageable pieces.

skeletonJust what can you do at these stations? One is the dissection/prosection table with the cadaver or cat. One is a pile of bones and they have to put Humpty Dumpty back together again – recognizing left vs right and what the bone names are. Another station has a plastic skeleton with felt muscles and scotch tape to study origin, insertion, action. I have brought in Halloween skeleton decorations and asked the students to look for anatomical inconsistencies. Another table has a few bones with the goal of identifying the landmarks from their list of terms.

You may be thinking that this doesn’t get to every student, but I have noticed is I now have students who either pass their lab quiz well, or they really, really don’t pass. There aren’t so many in the middle. It tells me the students who are studying, vs not spending the time studying and I have fewer students who are all out “tanking with pride,” as I call it. It seems to be working. A student came to me yesterday and told me that she had attempted to take A&P at another institution, but she got so lost in all the material, she didn’t know where to start. She felt my lab set up helped her divide and conquer the content into manageable pieces.

It’s easy to become complacent with our students, and forget that sometimes our students need ideas presented in a way that helps them begin to categorize and learn the material. What is so simple to us may be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back for them.  It’s a lot of work to help our students figure out where to start and learn how to be a learner, but so rewarding when it works.


Nichole Warwick teaches biology at Clatsop Community College and is a proud member of the HAPS Communications Committee.