Supplemental Instruction

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

We’re just past mid-semester, and that means some of our students are starting to ask for help in catching up on what they should have been doing every week. As with many institutions across the country, we have been working on improving student success and retention for a number of years now.  We assign the textbook-related website, we have our own online resources, and we provide an on-campus open lab for reviewing models and answering questions.  So, you might wonder, what are we missing? Why aren’t all of our students availing themselves of all these wonderful opportunities, and achieving their dreams in A&P?

The HAPS List serve had a lively discussion this week about allowing electronic devices in classes.  One of the points made was that students don’t always make the best choices, and that poor decision-making can, at least in some cases, be explained by their state of maturity (or lack thereof) due to age and experience.  Each of us, as faculty, needs to decide how much we will control in our courses, in terms of student behavior. We all implicitly control student behavior through awarding points for exams, discussions, participation, or other course-related activities, so banning or enhancing the use of electronics is just one more example of options we exercise to control the learning environment.  The exchange of ideas has me wondering if I’m providing enough structure for students to make better choices.  To me, that means setting clear consequences for failure to comply with the requirements I set up – all of which are designed to improve student outcomes.  But do students see these policies in the same light?  Or do they simply recognize additional barriers that they need to circumvent?

At my institution, we are planning to implement two major changes, which we predict will improve student mastery.  We are requesting approval to add the online text website access as a tuition-related course fee, and to add a contact hour of compulsory open lab attendance.  The process for each involves explaining the rationale for the action, ensuring that it is revenue-neutral (at least), and that it is feasible.  I think we can justify these actions based in part on data provided by our textbook publisher (in terms of success of their online resources) and a small pilot program in our open lab.  Yet, it remains to be seen if we get the level of success we are hoping for.  I hope to use my soon-to-be-acquired educational research skills to help inform future decisions of this sort.

I have yet to find a way to consistently jump-start all students’ intrinsic motivation, curiosity, or mental acumen within a single semester.  I don’t seem to have much impact in determining what students sign up for my course, or whether they are truly readying themselves to focus on their coursework.  So, I try to zero in on what I can do to encourage, enable, and channel their actions toward success.  I’m hoping our new online and in-person supplemental instruction initiatives will have a measurable effect.  I’ll be sure to share results with you all, and hope to hear from you about what you are doing that works well.

Resolution Review, and Looking Forward

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 9- The HAPS Learning Outcome Project

Learning outcomesHAPS has a long history of developing resources for educators of human anatomy and physiology. In 1992, the HAPS Core Curriculum Committee issued Course Guidelines for Introductory Level Anatomy & Physiology (now Course Guidelines for Undergraduate Instruction). This document was originally developed to provide guidance in setting curriculum for a two semester undergraduate course in human anatomy and physiology and was the beginning of the HAPS Learning Outcome Project. The HAPS Curriculum and Instruction Committee has more recently added A&P Learning Outcomes to accompany the course guidelines. All told, more than 35 instructors contributed to the set of documents that make up this incredible resource.

Today, this resource includes:

The authors wanted to be sure people understood that the project represents a suggested model and is not intended to be a mandate or an infringement upon academic freedom.  Instead, it is meant to be a guide for helping to improve student learning.  As such, instructors should realize that they are not required to use every outcome in the tables and are certainly welcome to include additional outcomes of their own.  Instructors should also feel free to cover the outcomes in different orders, or in different places within the course, than what are presented in the project. The goal of the HAPS Learning Outcomes Project was to provide a set of goals and learning outcomes for a two-semester course sequence in human anatomy and physiology (A&P) intended to prepare students for a variety of clinical and academic programs.  The documents in this project can be used as a benchmark for instructors currently teaching A&P courses or as a guide for those developing new courses.

The HAPS Curriculum and Instruction Committee consistently reviews and updates the documents of the Learning Outcomes Project. Comments related to the learning outcomes or supporting documents are welcome and may be sent to committee chair and will be considered for the next revision.

Next week, we’ll talk about the HAPS exam, which was written to assess how well students are meeting the standards outlined by the HAPS LO’s.

HAPS Leadership (#17): Southern Regional Director

We’re checking in with Jason LaPres this week to learn what is so gosh-darn special about the HAPS Regional Conferences.  Jason is our Southern Regional Director, as well as an attendee and/or committee member at a few of our Regionals.

???????????????????????????????“The Regional Conferences are a little more intimate than the Annual Conference.  Usually just over a weekend, they are a little more low-key.  Most people are close enough to drive and a lot know each other before reaching the conference.  There are fewer vendors, only 1 or 2 update lectures, but most of the focus is usually on the workshops.”

Uh…gee, Jason, that sounds somewhat “less” than the Annual Conference.

“Heck, no, Tom.  It’s just different.  As I said, the Regional Conferences tend to be more intimate than the Annuals.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Annual Conferences.  The night and day energy at those is incredible.  Meeting so many new people and experiencing so many new things is absolutely breath-taking.  But, what makes the Regional Conferences a jewel is their focus.”

“See, each Regional Conference tends to develop a bit of a theme for itself.  We’ve had Regional Conferences that were built around cadaver dissection, around online courses, around high school educators, the list goes on.  The Annual Conference is a chance to explore a whole bunch of – SQUIRREL!

140212 (2) Up“Sorry, lost my train of thought.  Oh yeah, the Regional Conferences are a great way to really roll your sleeves up and immerse yourself into a tight group of educators who are just as passionate as you.  We have an Eastern Regional Conference in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 15 of this year.  I’ve spoken to a number of people are very excited to attend that one.”

Are there other Regional Conferences in the works?

“Yes, Murray Jensen is working on a Central Regional Conference for October of this year.  We’ve had proposals from a number of other HAPSters who want to host a Regional Conference in their neck of the woods.  Hosting a Regional Conference is a great way to see if your location could serve as a future site for an Annual Conference.  For more information on hosting a Regional Conference, feel free to contact Ellen Lathrop-Davis, Chair of the Conference Committee or check out their committee’s web page.

Thanks, Jason.  That gives me a lot to think about.  I’m going to check out the Regional Conference web page and think about attending.

Excitement at the Southern Regional in Texas this past year!
Excitement at the Southern Regional in Texas this past year!
Vendors, Workshops, and Seminars..oh my!
Vendors, Workshops, and Seminars..oh my!

HAPS Leadership (#8): HAPS-EDucator

1211 (1) HAPS-ED

The HAPS-EDucator is the official publication of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) and is published online four times per year.  When I first started teaching in 1998, I found an insert card in a new textbook that introduced me to HAPS.  I was at a rural college in eastern Colorado, fairly isolated from science teachers.  I joined HAPS and started receiving the HAPS-EDucator every three months.  It was an amazing window into a group of people with similar interests and amazing stories to tell.  I didn’t get to attend my first HAPS conference until 2001, but those issues of the HAPS-ED hooked me early on.

Jennelle Malcos
Jennelle Malcos
Sarah Cooper
Sarah Cooper

The HAPS-EDucator aims to foster the advancement of anatomy and physiology education by facilitating the collaboration of HAPS members through the publication of a quarterly journal.  Journal articles may include, but are not limited to, those which discuss innovating teaching techniques, original lesson plans or lab exercises, reviews of trending topics in anatomy and physiology, and summaries of newsworthy events.  Jeanelle and Sarah – co-editors – work with dedicated contributors and editors to bring you incredible issues several times a year.  Prior editors, such as Susan Baxley and Marsha Sousa, have set a high standard.  Sarah and Jeanelle continue to keep that standard high and push new frontiers in the changing face of publishing.

Viva Las Vegas!
Viva Las Vegas!

We switched from a printed version to an online version a few years ago.  Whereas I miss having that paper edition in my hands, I really like the color images and graphics that we can implement into the online version.  Jeanelle and Sarah tried something new this year.  They created a special Annual Conference Edition of the HAPS-ED to highlight some of the magic that occurred in Las Vegas during this past conference in 2013.  I recognize the group in the right picture, but who is that in the middle shot?

Have you got a story to tell?  An activity to share?  An edu-snippet to present?  Jeanelle and Sarah would love to hear from you.

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!

High Hopes for the Semester, part 2

Arrgh!  I hate microscopes!
Arrgh! I hate microscopes!

Microscopy…Arrgh!  It can be a bane for many students.  However, it can also be a gateway for many of them to truly understanding the material if I can only figure out how to help them reach through the fear and trepidation to the actual cool stuff.

It’s been a personal challenge for me for a few years now.  HAPS has been a godsend in helping me with this.  At annual conferences, I keep an eye out for new workshops on histology and microscopy (and I’m never disappointed).  Nina Zanetti‘s always good for an intriguing workshop on using microscopy to teach physiology.  Terry Bidle has a knack for helping make histology more hands-on to students.  Those are the concepts that I’ve tried to take to heart as I (hopefully) improve the histology component of my A&P courses.

Which jar contains the pseudostratified epithelium?
Which jar contains the pseudostratified epithelium?

I’ve tried to create a set of hands-on models that allow my students to see the basic concept of each basic tissue type before we actually look through the microscope.  For the epithelial tissues, I’ve filled small jars with styrofoam peanuts to simulate various epithelia.  In lab, I have 3×5 index cards that describe various locations in the body and the functional aspect of their epithelia, expecting the students to match the cards to the jars.

Can you tell which connective tissue is which?
Which petri best represents fibrocartilage?

For connective, muscle, and nervous tissues, I have created petri dishes with epoxy resin, doll eyes (cells), and other knick knacks.  Again, I have 3×5 cards to describe each tissue and have the students match cards to petris. The important detail, I tell the students, is not to memorize the color of each petri or the “which petri has rubber bands?“, but to understand “what would distinguish elastic tissue from reticular tissue?”  Does that sound familiar?

I see a lot of enthusiasm in the lab and am starting to see more enthusiasm the next day when we dig out the actual scopes and glass slides.  I’m overhearing the students discussing what to look for in each slide (actually figuring out components of the various tissue types).  This appears to be empowering the students; cross your fingers.