Meet Becca!

HAPS is a society focused on the teaching and learning anatomy and physiology, but educators are just half of this equation.  We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our students.  So welcome to a new series of HAPS blog posts featuring A&P student extraordinaire, Becca Ludwig.  

A message from Becca!
A post from Becca!

I have been a student for a solid 17 years if you count from the day when I first stepped into my kindergarten class in 1998 to the time I walk across the stage with my Occupational Therapy degree in 2015. This is my last semester of coursework in my program before I go off into the big world to practice the art of Occupational Therapy. This holds some bitter sweet feelings for me. I love the idea of being a professional and making and impact on my clients’ lives, but I also love being a student and learning new things.

I have been a member of HAPS for a year now and have come to appreciate the professor’s side of the educational process. What you guys do is not easy. Over the course of the semester I will be writing a short series of posts about the student perspective on common things related to college life. This is a chance for you HAPSters to get inside of the student mind….

WARNING: It may be a scary place!

Note I am not the typical student…… or person for that matter, but I will try my best to explain the student perspective.

It's all good!

Reasons for Reason

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 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 Web 8- Student Lab Data Project

People working together to build a puzzle.
Helping students work together while improving the quality of lab data they can analyze…this is the goal of the Student Lab Data Project.

If you haven’t already gotten this idea, HAPS is an organization based on sharing and camaraderie between A&P instructors all around the world. In this vein, HAPS member Julie Dias, with the crucial support of HAPS Executive Director Peter English, built a dynamic website to enable Laboratory Data Collection and Sharing Amongst Post-Secondary Institutions.  

The project stemmed from a desire to increase student interest in data collection and analysis by allowing them to share their data with other students around the world who were conducting similar experiments.  It was also hypothesized that sharing data could result in a larger pool of data for under-represented groups which may include students in higher age categories, smokers, elite-level athletes and possibly even males.

The project includes three different spreadsheets to choose from:

  • EKG – heart rate, PR interval, P wave duration, QRS duration, T wave duration (before and after exercise)
  • Heart Rate and Blood pressure (systolic and diastolic ) before and after exercise
  • Spirometry – respiration rate, tidal volume, inspiratory reserve, expiratory reserve, vital capacity, FEV1, FVC (before and after exercise)

All three spreadsheets also include the following demographic parameters: gender  and age (both mandatory), and ethnicity, BMI, waist circumference, activity level, and smoker (all optional).

Any equipment for physiological data collection can be used.  There is a column for inputting the type of equipment used to gather the data, such as Vernier with Logger Pro, BioPac, iWorks, etc.  Contact Julie Dais to receive your private Google Docs spreadsheet for your institution, which will enable you to contribute data to the project.  You do not need to be a HAPS member to do this.

A second aspect of the project includes resources to support basic statistical analyses using MS Excel.  Data analysis templates are available along with instructions on how to perform these analyses and how to interpret the results.  If you have questions or comments about the data analysis, you can contact Erin Radomske.  Periodically the data submitted by the various participating colleges will be “curated” or further examined for erroneous results and moved to an Excel file on this page.  However, to access this file of group data, you need to be a HAPS member.  Please feel free to comment on this activity and make suggestions by using the Lab Data Forum.

This project represents just the sort of innovative collaboration fostered by HAPS that makes membership in the organization so incredibly valuable.

HAPS Web 7- Position Statements

If your institution wants you to dissect lego frogs instead of real ones, HAPS can help you formulate a departmental position on the issue.
If your institution wants you to dissect Lego frogs instead of real ones, HAPS can help you formulate a departmental position on the issue.

Tens of thousands of students take Anatomy and Physiology courses every year, usually as preparation for a career in health. A&P instructors touch the lives of all of these students, and HAPS gives those instructors guidance on dealing with some of the ethical and procedural issues that can arise in the process of this instruction. Having these guidelines and position statements allows HAPS members to rely on these statements as starting points for conversations when these issues come up.

One of the more contentious issues that arises is the use of animal specimens. Historically, an important tool of investigation in human anatomy has been dissection of animals. Often this is because human material is hard to come by and has its own logistical issues (see below). Dissection, both of humans and animals, instills a recognition and appreciation for the three-dimensional structure of the animal body, the interconnections between organs and organ systems, and the uniqueness of biological material while conveying the inherent variability of living organisms not otherwise observable in simulations and models. In physiology, experiments involving live animals provide an excellent opportunity to learn the basic elements specific to scientific investigation and experimentation. At the same time, HAPS also encourages educators to be responsive to student concerns regarding use of animals and to provide students who object to animal use with alternative learning materials. HAPS contends that science educators should retain responsibility for making decisions regarding the educational uses of animals and opposes any legislation or administrative policy that would erode the educator’s role in decision making or restrict dissection and animal experimentation in biology.

While animal dissection may approach the ideal, human cadavers provide opportunities that cannot be duplicated by animal dissection. HAPS believes that the opportunity to observe and wonder at the complexity of the human body, the impact of disease on human structure, the effects of age and life style on anatomy, and structural variations related to development are unique attributes of a cadaver experience. While anatomical models, interactive computer programs, and multimedia materials may enhance the laboratory experience, they should not be considered as equivalent alternatives or substitutes for a hands-on cadaver experience where it is available. HAPS supports the use of cadavers for anatomical study provided their use is in strict compliance with federal legislation, the guidelines of the National Institutes of Health, and the body donor program from which the cadavers were acquired, and that such use fulfills clearly defined educational objectives.

HAPS also provides position statements on the quality of education that institutions should be providing to our A&P students. A growing trend in education is the use of ‘distributed learning’ – partially or wholly online courses and the use of web-based resources. These educational distribution methods provide a number of advantages: providing access to education that might not otherwise be available to particular students, flexibility in scheduling and learning styles for students, and the wealth of resources available on the internet. Nevertheless, these instructional technologies must support and complement the needs of best principles of teaching and learning, including training of instructors, pedagogical best-practices and assessment security and integrity. Online courses should provide an equivalent experience and similar material to face-to-face courses, and not be watered-down versions of an on-campus course.

On the topic of instructor accreditation, HAPS understands that A&P instructors come from a wide variety of post-baccalaureate programs including traditional life sciences programs (e.g. biology or physiology) as well as programs like biological anthropology and kinesiology. In addition, many A&P instructors come from clinical backgrounds such as nursing or physical therapy. HAPS has a number of guidelines for suggested coursework that A&P instructors should have taken, and how clinical or practical experience can be considered substitutions for this coursework. These guidelines embrace the diversity in backgrounds while still requiring rigorous standards of instruction and evaluation of that instruction.

These guidelines and position statements, with far more detail and formality, can be found on the HAPS website.  These statements are tools that HAPS provides for dealing with the questions that A&P instructors may encounter when dealing with students, administrations, and the public.

HAPSweb 2: The Email Listserv

Bag of gold
The HAPS listserv is as fantastic as a bag of gold!

The HAPS email listserv is where some of the most interesting conversations in A&P are taking place!  The listserv is a members-only benefit that is an extremely valuable resource.  If you are a member of HAPS, but have not yet joined the listserv, you are missing out on one of the best parts of membership.

For example, Ken Saladin, author of three A&P textbooks, wrote, “I have found the HAPS-L listserv to be an invaluable resource. Occasionally I know something edifying to other list participants, which is gratifying, but more often, I learn from others brighter or better informed than I. HAPS-L discussions have alerted me to many new perspectives in A&P that have found their way into my textbooks, and to issues where I’ve needed to re-evaluate my assumptions and correct or update my information. As a rich source of ideas for improvements and corrections, HAPS-L ranks at least as high as, or maybe higher than, the peer reviews we commission for each new edition.

“As an active classroom professor, I mention new information from HAPS-L often in my A&P lectures, explain my teaching and testing with reference to what I know the nationwide US-Canadian norms to be, and occasionally check with my HAPS-L colleagues on questions my students ask that I can’t immediately answer. My students seem to appreciate that I’m actively engaged in this network of A&P instructors, sometimes referring their questions to the listserv and always formulating my teaching practices not in isolation, but in the context of the expectations of A&P courses everywhere. ”

The current HAPS President, Tom Lehman, added, “I smile on Fridays when I see multiple posts shooting out from colleagues who are trying to find reasons not to grade their latest exam.  Some of the posts are goofy and some are serious, but they’re almost all – on those Friday afternoons – a chance for educators to brainstorm and vent and share.  Even when we’re swamped with work, they give us a chance to flesh out some idea that has been percolating in the back of our minds, knowing that we have several colleagues who we can trust to consider our crazy idea and help build it into something amazing for our students.  The list-serv is one of the best aspects of being a member of HAPS.”

Well said, Mr. President.

HAPS-I: Rational Course Design

Image from http://www.zazzle.com/rational_as_pi_tshirt-235552823010272068
Maybe I need some lessons on being RATIONAL.
(Tshirt available at Zazzle.com)

I am sometime surprised by the way I can squeeze time out of an apparently packed week. But just like students often “need” the pressure of a quiz to remain diligent in their studies, I find tasks easier to complete if they are linked with looming deadlines.

So! In a moment of brilliant justification, I decided to sign up for Margaret Weck’s HAPS-I course on rational course design. Ready for the justification? It is simple. I will be teaching Human Physiology in the spring semester and have already decided to re-work the entire course. I’ve taught Physio many times in the past and feel it needs a giant overhaul. This means new labs, new lectures, new projects…the whole deal. And of course, I’ve been wondering where I would come up with the time to DO this overhaul—(insert heroic music here!)—HAPS and Dr. Weck to the rescue!

The course description states:  Participants will produce syllabi for new or existing courses that demonstrate the principles of rational course design.  As part of this process sample assignments and assessments will also be developed that could be used in any course to demonstrate student achievement of the A&P Learning Outcomes.  Clearly, this is the perfect opportunity to learn from the amazing Margaret Weck, complete a comprehensive overhaul of my course, and  take advantage, yet again, of all the ways HAPS helps me become a better teacher.

So join me!  This will be a fun class!  You can earn two graduate credits for the course, or just take it for professional development.  And remember—you can still apply for a HAPS-I scholarship to help you pay for the course.  The deadline to apply for this generous award is Friday August 15.