Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Using Your Textbook to 'Teach Up' in Anatomy and Physiology

One of the concepts that co-author Gary Thibodeau and I have considered to be important in our textbook Anatomy & Physiology is the idea of teaching up.

What is "teaching up?" 

What we mean by teaching up is the strategy used by nearly every A&P professor that we know when they add some concepts or facts that go beyond the typical "baseline" content of an undergraduate A&P book. Facts that are not plainly visible in the typical A&P textbook.

Teaching up is the logical consequence of tailoring learning experiences to individual learners, particular programs, or the unique objectives of a particular course.

Examples include adding a few additional bone markings to the course when you know that your students are likely to encounter them in their unique clinical courses at your school. Or there may be a particular theme or concept that you want to emphasize, and you need a few more details of anatomy to set the stage for your explanation.

In a nutshell, teaching up is taking an introductory textbook (such as Anatomy & Physiology) and adding your own additional content for your unique course.

How we enable teaching up

Gary and I have always done our best to make sure that the construction of the text narrative--and especially the illustrations and tables--are suitable for such teaching up.

When commissioning new anatomic art, we ask the medical illustrator to make sure that certain features are drawn in, even if they are not called out in the text narrative or labeled in that illustration. We do the same when designing diagrams and organizing summary tables for each chapter.

One of our jobs as textbook authors is to maintain an awareness of what is "usual" in A&P courses--and what is expected. Not as easy as it sounds, but I think we manage okay. However, we also know that each course is different and we want to make our book usable for those that like to add a little bit here and a little bit there in their courses. By make our book teach-up friendly, we attempt to help all of our users

How to teach up

Here's the method I've used (and tweaked over the years) to teach up in my A&P courses.

First, when I introduce that extra bone feature (for example), I make it clear that it's not emphasized (or perhaps even mentioned) in the book. One can do this during a live or video lecture, a course outline or syllabus, a handout, announcement in the learning management system (LMS) or course website/blog/twitter, or any number of ways.

It's important to take care in emphasizing your deviation from the textbook, because if it is presented in your course in an off-handed way, most students won't realize it's not that way in the textbook, and may fail to make proper note of it.

Expanding on that first point about emphasizing moments when I teach up, I want to add that I nearly always specifically tell them to make note of it. Not just mention that it's added content, but to also take a moment NOW and write it down. Really. I often say that out loud: "Really! Write it down now!"

Often, it's merely a matter of adding an additional label to an existing illustration, so I may tell them the specific Figure number and show them where to put the new label. Then give them a moment to do so. I even do this in the video lectures I use in my course.

Second, when emphasizing the addition of extra content, I often explain the rationale for why I'm adding things. A&P students often feel very overwhelmed by just the baseline content of the course--they want to know why you insist on adding more to their overflowing brains.

For example, mentioning that, "I know many of your will be in our nursing clinicals, and I know that this fact is something that will help you there if you learn it now." Or "those who are going into our rad tech program are really going to need to know this fact."

Besides letting students know that there is a method to your madness, this strategy also helps them realize the connection between isolated facts and real-world applications. That's not always so easy to see in the basic science courses--before they've encountered their clinical courses. By giving those occasional "why you need to know this" explanations, we are actually shifting the mindsets of our students in a way that helps them learn more deeply.

If any of you have some of those "teaching up" concepts that you'd like see reflected in the details of our illustrations, pass your ideas along to me. Please include your rationale for including them in your course. We'll see what we can do make sure we set the stage properly for your teach-up moments!

Top photo: Stefan Krilla



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