Monday, December 12, 2016

Pathology Photos Spark Student Interest

As an anatomy and physiology instructor, you already know that students have an innate fascination with the body. I think everybody does, to some extent. But A&P students more so, because they have a demonstrated interest in health care, athletics, or some field related to the human body.

That's one reason that we've always included a lot of dramatic pathology photos in our textbooks. They spark a curiosity in readers that motivates them to read more and find out about that dramatic condition they see in front of them.

Another benefit of pathology photos is that it "brings home" the reality of conditions described in the text narrative. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. And dramatic pictures are perhaps worth even more. Such images may also help the brain reinforce memories by acting as a mnemonic device.

But why have any pathology at all in a "basic science" textbook focused on normal structure and function? Because pathology is a great way to clarify "normal" by revealing what can happen when specific mechanisms or structures "break." It helps prepare students for the clinical concepts they'll be learning in their next courses.

Many users forget, however, that there are lot more of these dramatic pathology images than are seen in the pages of the textbook itself. There are many more among the A&P Connect articles available in the Student Resources online at Evolve.

The online A&P Connect articles feature many images that use various medical imaging techniques, giving students a great introduction to the kinds of medical image that they may see in later courses and in their clinical experiences.

Medical images not only enhance student motivation, they also provide great opportunities to practice visualizing the body in many different planes and from different perspectives.

A&P professors may want to "spice up" their course materials with pathology images from the book (available at Evolve Instructor Resources) and from the A&P Connect articles (Evolve Student Resources).

CT scan: Yale Rosen (not from textbook)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2016 Textbook Excellence Award for A&P 9e!

I'm happy to announce that today, the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) announced that our textbook—Anatomy & Physiology 9th edition—is a winner of the 2016 Textbook Excellence Award.

This award "recognizes excellence in current textbooks and learning materials."

TAA is a group of textbook and scholarly authors who work together as peers in striving to improve our effectiveness.  The honor of receiving this award is enhanced by the fact that it was thoroughly examined by accomplished textbook authors in our discipline—a very humbling experience.

I think the judges have recognized that our book has a unique combination of strong text narrative, illustrations, and learning features that sets it apart as an effective learning tool.

I think the award also recognizes the excellent work of the many members of our team responsible for the continuing success of this textbook. Besides Gary and I as authors, there are many contributors, reviewers, editors, other publishing professionals, illustrators and designers, learning consultants, and many other colleagues, who have critical roles in producing our textbook.

If you haven't had a chance to check out what sets this A&P textbook apart, click here and see for yourself.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Update in the Periodic Table of Elements

In the ninth edition of Anatomy & Physiology, you may notice some missing spaces in the 7th period (row) of the periodic table of elements pictured at the bottom of p. 39. Those "missing" elements can now be filled in, according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

IUPAC is the "official namer" of elements, and so it's up to them, using a very careful and deliberate process of verifying experimental results from labs around the globe, to keep the periodic table of elements up to date. Last week, while we were all getting ready to celebrate the new year, IUPAC formally announced that elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 had all be officially verified, thus "completing" the seventh period (7th row) of the table.

When discussing the periodic table of elements in my A&P course, I use it to point out its usefulness in identifying the known elements and their chief characteristics. I then point out the handful of elements in the top corners of the table that are frequently encountered in the human body and, therefore, frequently encountered in the A&P course.

I bring this new information to your attention so that you can write in the new elements in your copy of Anatomy & Physiology. This news will not only keep you up to date; it will be there as a reference if any of your students asks about the missing elements on p. 39, or brings up a headline they recently saw regarding the newly verified elements. And it's a little bit of a preview to the next edition of A&P!

Want to know more?

Discovery and Assignment of Elements with Atomic Numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118

Newly updated version Periodic Table (image)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chunking Content Provides Flexibility

In some of my previous posts, I explained some of the advantages of chunking a large volume of complex content into smaller bits:

Chunking breaks content into smaller bits
Those previous discussions described chunking material into smaller chapters, smaller sections, smaller subsections, smaller paragraphs, and smaller sentences. I also described chunking material in Anatomy & Physiology in the form of summary tables that also help students discover conceptual patterns.

This post builds on these ideas by introducing the value of breaking textbook content into smaller chunks when adapting the textbook content to the specific needs of your A&P course.

In an article I wrote last year at The A&P Professor titled Your Textbook is a Mitten, Not a Glove, I called attention to the fact that each of us tailors the depth and range of topics, the style of presentation, and sometimes the sequence of concepts, to fit the specific objectives of a course—or even a particular section of the A&P course. I believe that a thoughtfully chunked textbook assists both instructors and students in making the textbook "fit" the course.

Flexibility in selecting and organizing content for your course is enhanced by having the Anatomy & Physiology textbook broken down into smaller units. For example, by having the entire course broken down into 48 chapters—instead of the usual 20-something chapters—the instructor can "move around" content into a different sequence from the Anatomy & Physiology textbook's sequence with very little disruption to the students. Reducing disruption by being able to move whole chapters—rather than a half or third of a chapter here and there--can greatly enhance the student experience. It also makes it easier for the instructor, who is thus relieved from unraveling the confusion in syllabi, course schedules, and student inquiries.

Smaller, more discrete chapter topics also makes it easier to skip a topic. For example, in some programs, most topics in immunity are not covered in the A&P course, but are instead covered in microbiology or another course. Most A&P books combine lymphatic and immunity topics into a single chapter, so an A&P professor may find themselves wrestling with the student confusion caused by assigning only a partial chapter.

And "good luck" if your students are using a published workbook or online adaptive learning tool that is organized by chapter.

In Anatomy & Physiology, however, separate chapters on lymphatics, innate immunity, and adaptive immunity make it very easy to reorganize—or even skip—topics to suit the needs of a particular A&P course.

Students benefit from clear organization
Likewise, carefully subdivided sections and subsections assist instructors in skipping or rearranging the sequence of topics within a particular chapter. Even if the instructor does not call attention to a rearrangement of certain elements of the A&P story in class (vs. the sequence in the textbook), the clear labeling of discrete sections and subsections helps the student figure out where the concepts are covered in the textbook.

Chunking has many benefits—and we can now see that enhancing the instructor's flexibility in organizing course content is one of them. And that can result in less student confusion—and greater student success.

Images: Robert Michie (top)
KPatton (middle)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Embedded Hints Improve Reading Comprehension

Can we assume that our students come to us already knowing how to read a book? Probably. 

Can we assume that they know how to effectively read and use an A&P textbook? Probably not.

Really? you may wonder. What's special about reading a textbook?

Technically detailed textbooks such as A&P textbooks are not much like books of popular literature. One cannot just sit down and read a chapter of an A&P textbook from start to finish—like you would with a novel—and expect to have learned much. And whatever you did comprehend would probably disappear from your brain by day's end.

No, college reading experts tell us that students must use reading strategies to comprehend what they read in a textbook. But I see that my students come to me without any such strategies or skills. They've gotten by without them until they hit their A&P textbook, then wonder why the textbook doesn't seem to be helping them much. Then they limp along on class notes only—missing out on the deeper learning possible with the complementary material in the textbook.

I was an excellent reader when I was an undergraduate. Looking back, however, I realize that I didn't use any special strategies—and I didn't really get a whole lot out of my hours of textbook reading. Not compared to what happens now when I do technical reading employing some of the proven strategies to increase my reading comprehension of technical scientific works.

So what to do? Spend a week teaching our students how to read their textbooks? After getting some training ourselves in college reading strategies?

I've provided a better option in Anatomy & Physiology.

To guide students step by step through an effective reading strategy, I've embedded a series of hints that tell students exactly what to do to learn from their textbooks more effectively—and by spending less total study time.

Some of these strategies I've discussed here in previous posts. For example, I've already walked you through the word-study approach to reading vocabulary and The Big Picture summary of interrelationships of concepts.

Take a look at any chapter in Anatomy & Physiology to see the embedded hints clearly marked with the Hint icon. If you don't have a copy, just go to this link and request a free review copy now!

Then let's help our students by advising them follow the directions in the hints to get the most out of their A&P textbooks—and reduce their total study time!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Case Studies Promote Critical Thinking Skills

The use of case studies in teaching is probably as old as teaching itself. What better way to solidify the learning of basic concepts than to practice applying them to hypothetical "real life" scenarios?

The teaching and learning of human anatomy and physiology lends itself particularly well to case study applications. Most of our learners are preparing for health professions or fitness-athletic careers in which they'll be doing nothing but applying A&P principles to real-life cases.

That's why every chapter in Anatomy & Physiology includes a brief, engaging Case Study scenario that challenges the reader to apply what they've learned in that chapter. It appears with the end-of-chapter review material, as part of a suite of active learning opportunities that help readers really "get" the core concepts of human structure and function.

Brain -based learning principles hold that students learn better when they are challenged with activities that allow them to construct and consolidate their own mental models of basic concepts. Puzzling over a case study after reading a chapter helps students do just that.

I've found that many of my A&P students rely heavily on inductive reasoning and therefore may find that case studies make it easier to understand core concepts. The chapter narrative uses a deductive approach, moving from general principles to specific concepts—then the case study turns things around a bit and allows the reader to explore specific cases to construct a mental framework of the broader principles. They thus learn their A&P "backward and forward," eh?

Study after study has shown that the case-study strategy is an effective learning tool for A&P students, so why not incorporate that into their reading process?

Take a look at the Case Studies in your copy of Anatomy & Physiology to see that it really does fit the needs of your students to improve reading comprehension. If you don't have a copy, just go to this link and request a free review copy now!

X-ray credit: Hellerhoff

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pharmacology Answers "Why Do I Need to Know All This?"

Is there any A&P professor who doesn't often hear some version of "why do we need to know all this?" in a tone that implies that we are surely asking way too much of our students. Of course, some of that is a natural reaction to a challenge. But some of it is rooted in the idea that health professionals can somehow understand clinical concepts without much of a foundation in basic scientific principles.

One area in particular that makes many A&P students—and even a few professors—chafe under the load is the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Why in the world would a health professional such as a nurse need to know about cholinergic and adrenergic fibers and receptors? Not to mention the fact that there are subclasses of autonomic receptors like alpha, beta, nicotinic, muscarinic, and bears—oh my! Okay, not bears. But in a student's mind, all these concepts may as well be gigantic, dangerous beasts!

The thought is "do we really need to know all that?" If I'm a nurse, will I ever have to use a detailed knowledge of ANS function, particularly all those subclasses of autonomic receptors? The short answer is, "YES!"

But students don't always trust that simple answer—because "really? Beta2-adrenergic receptors?!" 

So in the new edition of Anatomy & Physiology, I've just gone right ahead and addressed the issue head on. Which, it turns out, is much easier than a head-on encounter with a gigantic, dangerous beast.

In Chapter 22—Autonomic Nervous System, a new section titled Pharmacology follows the discussion of ANS receptors. It begins with this passage:
The interest in autonomic transmitters and receptors is not simply theoretical. Knowledge of specific transmitter-receptor locations and types, their various interaction, and how they are modulated in co-transmission, is important for understanding how many common drugs work. Pharmacology, the study of drug actions, has used such knowledge to determine how known drugs—and even traditional therapies—work in the body.
The new Pharmacology section then goes on to explain how familiarity with the general idea of receptor classes gives one a practical understanding of many of the most common types of drugs that health professionals—and patients, for that matter—encounter on a daily basis in clinical practice.

These concepts thus prepare students to make good patient-care decisions. 

beta2-adrenergic agonist
used in treating
asthma and COPD
In short, this new section directly answers the question, "why do I need to know all that?" with a direct, common-sense application. By doing that, one hopes that as the student progresses, they may trust us a bit more when we challenge them with details that may not be seen as directly useful in one's clinical career.

If you have a copy of Anatomy & Physiology, flip over to Chapter 22 (p.511) and read through this section. It's not very long, but you'll be able to see how we develop the "here's why you need to know this stuff" theme a bit further with a table showing patterns of transmitter-receptor activity compared and contrasted with agonist and antagonist categories of drugs.

If you don't have a copy of Anatomy & Physiology, why not?! Just go to this link and request a free review copy now!

Photos: Produnis and Mendel

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Netter's 3D Interactive Anatomy Provides a Multimodal Learning Experience

Even though the access page for Netter’s 3D Interactive Anatomy practically jumps out at you when you open the book—it's on the inside of the front cover of Anatomy & Physiology—many users seem unaware of the powerful learning potential of this amazing software.

Each reader receives free 1-year access to Netter’s 3D Interactive Anatomy, powered by Cyber Anatomy, with a new purchase of Anatomy & Physiology. A redemption code for the subscription is under a scratch-off box on the access page inside the front cover.

A "hidden gem" in plain sight of anyone who opens the textbook, Netter’s 3D Interactive Anatomy is a state-of-the-art software program that uses advanced gaming technology and interactive 3D anatomy models to learn, review, and teach anatomy.

You probably already know the name of Frank Netter, the brilliant and widely respected anatomy and medical illustrator.  Dubbed "the Michelangelo of medicine" by the Saturday Evening Post, Netter revolutionized how anatomy is learned and taught through visual depictions. His work is realistic, yet clear and uncluttered.  And it is beautiful.

Netter’s 3D Interactive Anatomy adapts Netter's vast library of anatomical art to a gamification environment to make the study of Netter's "virtual" anatomy highly engaging.  The environment does this by melding 3D versions of anatomical structures with the ability to manipulate them in real time—thus adding the fourth dimension of time.  

Because each user is "in control" as they zoom, twist, pull apart, unwrap, peel away, and pan, this program also adds the kinesthetic dimension characteristic of the best "virtual reality" experiences. Users can add or remove labels at will. This multimodal approach implements principles of brain-based learning a a way that gives the user the enjoyment of playing an exploratory game.

Professors can also use this tool in the classroom or lab to demonstrate anatomical relationships in a way that 2D illustrations, plastic models, and even dissection specimens cannot.  For example, layers of the GI wall can be easily peeled away to demonstrate each coat.  The skull bones can be pulled apart—then put back together—to help students quickly learn this tricky part of the skeleton. 

The really cool thing about using Netter’s 3D Interactive Anatomy as a teaching tool is that each student can recreate—and extend—this experience on their own during individual or group time!

Enough of me jabbering away about it—watch the video below or get a free trial subscription—and see for yourself how just amazing and addictive Netter’s 3D Interactive Anatomy really is!  Or even better—have your Elsevier Educational Solutions Consultant give you a free, personalized demonstration.

Watch this brief video to see how Netter's 3D Interactive Anatomy works!


Note: some content adapted from ElsevierAdvantage

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tables Help Students Recognize Patterns

One of the things our Anatomy & Physiology books are known and loved for is their extensive set summary tables. Although students quickly discover how useful they are, I'm not sure many A&P professors give them much thought.  But as an A&P author, I have to give them a lot of thought—and I want to share a few of my thoughts about these tables that may surprise you!

Tables help students construct a conceptual framework.
Sometimes, beginning students are so overwhelmed with details that they have a hard time seeing how it all fits together into a whole idea. Summary tables bring details together in a way that assists learners in starting their own cognitive scaffold for new facts and ideas. Those of us who already appreciate "the big picture," often forget how critical it is for newbies to properly build their understanding in steps.

Tables serve as a handy reference tool.
Students often use their textbooks for "raiding" specific facts, rather than reading whole sections.  For example, when learning the bones and markings of the skeleton, summary tables can quickly and effectively give a pithy description of illustrated structures in the textbook. As professors, we often forget how much the beginner relies on such tools to get started in learning.

Tables help students recognize patterns.
Many of the tables in an A&P textbook are not meant to be memorized.  Instead, they are used to compare and contrast ideas in a visual way that is difficult to do in the text narrative.  This moves students beyond "just the facts" to how those facts can be applied in understanding human structure and function.  In a table, patterns become obvious and critical thinking starts to "click" in the minds of readers. We instructors, who have already had our "aha" moments with these topics, sometimes don't appreciate how helpful a carefully arranged table can be in producing such moments.

Tables must be easily readable.
This may seem too obvious a fact to mention here. However, I've found that well-prepared teachers can easily read and understand even a horribly formatted, vaguely written table. Students who are just learning the concepts often get lost as they go across a row and don't know enough to figure out where they are supposed to look next.  Which brings me to my final, and perhaps most important, point . . .

Effective tables are carefully designed.
This is what makes a table easily readable—thoughtful design. In the latest revision of Anatomy & Physiology, effective table design is a major focus.  Having experimented in previous editions, I collaborated with our designer, editors, and previous students, to find a format that is both "readable" and "raidable."  I'll list a few things we did to make that happen in a moment.  But first, I also want to mention that I also put a lot of work into making sure that content that lends itself to a summary table is put into a table in way that complements and supports the text narrative.  That is, the table content is not simply a re-hash of the text—it is a thoughtful rearrangement of concepts to add more depth to student learning.

Table design features that promote effective learning in Anatomy & Physiology:

  • Background screens
    • Different shades of color behind different rows of each table helps the brain quickly see logical groupings of concepts.  
    • The color of the screens is apparent, but not too bright or too saturated to distract the brain from the content
  • Rules (borders)
    • White horizontal rules are just visible enough that they (along with the color screens) subtly guide the reader's eye across rows
    • Vertical rules help the reader clearly distinguish columns and cells so that it is clear how the concepts are organized in the table
  • Fonts
    • Font sizing allows tables of a compact size—which allows ease of seeing patterns in the whole—but is still big enough for easy reading
    • Intentional use of boldface and italic headings within the more complex table help clarify the organization of ideas—thus reducing the cognitive load of understanding table content
    • The occasional use of color fonts helps highlight conceptual patterns
      • For example, the book's color code can be applied in tables related to blood vessels (oxygenated red and deoxy blue) or nerves (afferent blue and efferent red)
  • Illustrations
    • Judicious use of small, embedded or nearby sketches help students more clearly "see" the concepts listed in a table
    • This is a careful balancing act, because tables with overly large illustrations, too many illustrations, or very complex illustrations can reduce the effectiveness of a table
There is lot more to what goes into designing each table in Anatomy & Physiology to make it an effective learning tool.  But this post is already almost too much to read in one sitting, eh? In later posts, I'll be calling attention to particular tables—especially those new to the latest edition—to give examples of how effective they are for deep student learning.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Color is the Key to Student Success in A&P

As part of our overall strategy of applying brain-based learning principles to Anatomy & Physiology, we use a consistent color key in each illustration to promote student success.  What I mean by that is that a particular structure is represented in exactly the same color wherever it appears in a diagram in Anatomy & Physiology.

For example, mitochondria are always a shade of the same pinkish color.  Cell membranes are always a particular blue.  Protein molecules are always a certain shade of green.  Lipids are always "lipid yellow."  DNA is purple and RNA is orange. 

When the brain is trying to make sense of visual information in diagrams, it is easier to detect similarities or variations in color and shade than to detect shapes.  So for a beginning learner, it's helpful to use the assistance of a color code when trying to figure out which organelle is a mitochondrion in a diagram (its pink) and which organelle is a nucleus (its purple).  

Likewise, it's not hard to figure out which side of a (blue) cellular membrane is intracellular if that region is always represented in yellow and which side is extracellular if that side is always represented in light blue.

Using a consistent color code for key structures reduces the cognitive load of interpreting diagrams. It thus allows the reader to spend most of their "mental energy" on the main idea of the diagram—rather than get bogged down in trying to figure out all the little parts of the diagram first.

It's only after a student has become familiar with the microscopic and gross terrain of the body that they can then start to recognize mitochondria, nuclei, intracellular spaces, and extracellular spaces by their locations and shapes.  A color code helps students become competent faster by allowing them to learn in a step-wise fashion—much as using training wheels can shorten the time it takes to learn how to ride a bike.  

In Anatomy & Physiology, we also tell the reader what we're doing by providing a comprehensive color key in the preface of the textbook.  By revealing the strategy up front, a savvy reader can gain even more benefit from it by being mindful of the color-coding technique of learning as they use the textbook.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Clear View of the Human Body Helps Students Integrate Anatomical Relationships

One of things that readers first notice in Anatomy & Physiology is the set of transparent overlays tucked into the book.  I always smile when I see the look on my students' faces when they first discover it—they are positively fascinated by it.  Actually, so am I.  Even after all these years.

I first created the Clear View of the Human Body for the 6th edition with the help of my friend Paul Kreiger, a talented A&P professor-author-illustrator, and the amazing team at Dragonfly Media Group. I've continued to tweak it in successive editions to make the best anatomical tool possible.

The Clear View is set of anatomical illustrations of a male and female body printed on transparent sheets.  As one lifts each sheet, the underlying anatomical structures become visible—constituting a kind of virtual dissection.

It's fun to watch students as they pull up a layer, then replace it, only to pull it up again. They do this because they are naturally curious about the three-dimensional relationships among the structures of the body. They want to apply the knowledge they've gained from their study of the diverse organ systems to a whole-body exploration.  In other words, the Clear View satisfies their natural desire to integrate what they are learning with the "big picture" of the human body.

Because it's always tucked into the textbook, it's always handy to integrate new A&P lessons into each student's developing picture of human body structure.

Besides showing the male and female body in a classical, slightly modified anatomical position, the Clear View allows students to easily apply what they are learning in the textbook and their A&P course. Also present are transverse sections from various levels of the body that help students further develop their multi-dimensional understanding of human body structure.

Something that's quite unique about the Clear View is that there is a second set of overlays that enable one to dissect the layers from the posterior aspect.  Most A&P texts show whole-body illustration only from the anterior aspect, but the Clear View shows both.  This further enhances a student's ability to fully integrate what they've learned into a multi-dimensional mental image of the human body.

Try it yourself!  Get a copy of Anatomy & Physiology and play around with the Clear View of the Human Body, and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Adaptive Quizzing Helps Students Get Ready for Tests and Exams

I've been using online quizzing in my A&P courses for over a decade. I've used a home-grown test bank with my LMS to produce randomized tests that prepare students to take their in-class exams—as outlined in my presentation Testing as Teaching.

I admit that I had some reservations before trying this strategy, But then I realized that it makes excellent use of what computers do best—automated, repeated tasks at any time of day. This allows each student to practice answering challenging questions until they "get it." And we all know that repeated practice—whether it be basic facts or applications that involve critical thinking—is what helps students progress to full competency in learning outcomes.

As an enthusiastic convert to automated quizzing as an important tool (among many) in A&P courses, I'm pleased that two proven resources for implementing your own automated learning strategies are available with the new edition of Anatomy & Physiology. I introduced Elsevier Adaptive Learning (EAL) powered by Cerego to you in my last article. Now, I want to introduce you to a second, equally powerful tool.

Called Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ), this tool allows you to quickly and easily set up online quizzes for your A&P course. No need for home-grown test banks! Test items created and vetted by veteran A&P professors are each keyed to:

Once your quizzes are set up, you can immediately see analytics showing student progress and student engagement. As you open up EAQ, your dashboard pops up with this information laid out in an easy-to-follow dashboard that tells you exactly how your students are performing. 

You will know at a glance who your top performing students are—and your lowest performing students. You'll also immediately know which topics are giving all your students the most trouble. This information allows you to fix problems right away—before students fall so far behind that they can't catch up.

Imagine a student coming to your office and telling you they need help but don't know what's going wrong. You can simply pull up their EAQ profile and see exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are—allowing you to quickly and accurately diagnose their situation and see exactly what they need to get back on track. It's not exactly peeking inside their brains to see what's going wrong, but it's pretty darn close!

Using a "flipped" class format or Just in Time Teaching? Use your EAQ analytics to fine tune what you need to be focusing on with each student group!

I've also found that when I can see data on how my students are performing in specific content areas, I can make better decisions about my course design and my teaching strategies. Continued use of such tools over successive semesters improves my overall course quality because I revise my course to address problem areas—making it a better and better course over time.

With EAQ you have a choice to allow students to take chapter "practice quizzes" on their own to prepare for their in-class exams or you can easily customize quizzes based on your own specific objectives for a teaching module.

Your Elsevier Education Solutions Consultant can demonstrate all the rich features of EAQ—far too much for me to get into here—and even arrange a free trial for you. They can also work with you to formulate the best strategies for you to implement EAQ along with EAL and other resources available with the new edition of Anatomy & Physiology.

Watch the Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ) guided tour video

Photo credit: theveravee

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Students Have Fun and Learn Quickly with EAL Adaptive Learning

A few years ago, I had a remarkable meeting with some key players at Elsevier Publishing regarding device-based adaptive learning strategies. Joining our small group was Andrew Smith Lewis, the founder of Cerego.

I learned that the Cerego was created to put validated learning science to play in making learning fun and easy. But more importantly, the adaptive learning strategies in Cerego help make learning permanent.

Repeated practice of core concepts—based on what each individual really needs—flattens out the "learning curve" at its peak.  No downhill slide of the "forgetting curve."  Memory strength for each key concept is built up and then retained for the long haul.

I am happy to report that meeting eventually led to a partnership with Cerego in which we have provided an amazing and effective learning tool called Elsevier Adaptive Learning (EAL) available with Anatomy & Physiology.

EAL sets the conceptual foundation your A&P students need by getting them up to speed on all the core concepts of each chapter of Anatomy & Physiology.  It does so quickly and in a way that is fun for students.  And it does all this "in the background" as students work individually at their own pace, on their desktop or mobile device, without taking any extra instructor time.  Well, except for the few minutes you'll want to spend reviewing the statistics of your students progress!

By placing the EAL process after their reading assignment and before their classroom activity, your students will then be ready to start applying what they know in your classroom and lab activities. Nobody will be left behind and you'll find that your students are much more grounded in their facts—and more engaged as they learn to apply their knowledge. 

If you want to know more about EAL go to Elsevier's Adaptive Solutions or ask your Elsevier rep to schedule a demonstration of EAL. It's one of those things you really need to see and experience to appreciate!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Helping Students See the Big Picture

Teaching thousands of anatomy and physiology students over the decades has taught me that a major hurdle is being able to see the "big picture" of the structure and function of the human body.

Because the A&P course necessarily includes a nearly overwhelming collection of detailed, technical facts expressed in a language that is foreign to many beginning students, they become so focused on each bit of information that they have hard time putting it all together into a coherent conceptual framework.  

One approach would be to present a concept map—or some type of graphic representation—of all the core concepts of each body system.  For example, a graphic showing how the system explored in a particular chapter ties into the structure and function of all the other systems of the body.

I think a graphic approach can be very useful, but I wonder if that strategy isn't better used as an active learning exercise in which each learner creates their own concept map—perhaps after some of the initial learning of a topic has already taken place.  Or, even better, make it a collaborative study project among a group of peers. 

I think a better approach in a textbook with limited page space is to build a "big picture" perspective into the narrative of the story.  So that's why in Anatomy & Physiology we have included a highlighted section at the end of each chapter that briefly pulls the reader back from the details of the chapter and widens the focus to take in a bigger, more global perspective.

Called The Big Picture, this feature does several things:
  • It calls the reader's attention to a whole-body, integrated view of the current topic's place in the wider scheme of human structure and function.

  • It gives specific examples of  how the current topic relates to—or builds upon—concepts covered in previous chapters.  This encourages students to integrate new concept with their growing framework of of knowledge to construct a solid  understanding of A&P.

  • This feature also looks ahead to concepts of later chapters by mentioning how the current topic will lead to a fuller understanding of concepts yet to be explored in the A&P course.

  • It improves reading comprehension of each chapter by calling attention to the main themes and reminding the reader of core concepts within a meaningful context.

  • The Big Picture specifically relates the current topic such core principles as homeostasis and form-fits-function.

  • Besides outlining specific examples of connections among concepts, The Big Picture also asks students to think about the integration of concepts themselves—thus encouraging them to develop the critical thinking skills needed to take their A&P learning forward into later courses (and into their professions).

To get the reader's attention, a one-page introduction called Seeing The Big Picture faces the first page of Chapter 1 of Anatomy & Physiology.  This feature grabs the readers attention immediately and sets them along their path already looking for the big picture.  It encourages students to think about relationships as they read—but also tells them to look for The Big Picture at the end of each chapter to help them "get" the big ideas of the chapter.

We have given a lot of thought to which strategy works best to help readers understand whole-body relationships. We are certain that the tried-and-tested summary narrative The Big Picture works well in stimulating critical thinking and construction of a solid conceptual framework than a pre-constructed chart that may short-circuit the learning process in a learner's mind.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Binder-Ready A&P Textbooks are Easier to Use (and a Great Value)

A binder-ready textbook is one that is supplied in a loose-leaf, 3-hole-punched format. Anatomy & Physiology has been offered with a binder-ready option for the last three editions.

I first approached my editors many years ago with the idea of a binder-ready version at the urging my students.  They had many reasons for wanting Anatomy & Physiology in a loose, unbound format.  Chief among their reasons was that they really wanted to have their textbook with them in class, in lab, and while studying between classes—but they did NOT want to lug around such a heavy book.

When the book is in a loose-leaf format, students have a choice to bring half the book—a semester's worth of material—or just the chapters they need for the current week.  They can have their "master" binder at home and keep a much smaller "working binder" with them in their schoolbag.

Many of my students also wanted the option of putting all their learning material for a topic in one place.  For example, some of them have a "cardiovascular binder" in which they've placed the cardiovascular chapters from their book and all their related notes, concept lists, concept maps, handouts, assignments, and printouts of their test or quiz attempts.

Besides being an efficient way to keep study materials organized while using them, it's also a great way to slowly build a topical library of small binders.  These will be referred to frequently when studying for A&P exams, going back to review chemistry when you get to acid-base balance, and in later courses—which all rely on reviewing past A&P topics.

In addition to its practical benefits, the binder-ready version of Anatomy & Physiology is a great value for students.  Priced significantly less than the hardbound version—typically a 33% difference—students can save some serious money and still get all the content they'd get in a hard-bound copy.

And here is a teaching tip—if you want to "travel light" to the classroom or lab, bring only the unit or chapter you need for that day's discussion.  In the lab, I like to have all the bone chapters in a small binder so I can use it to point things out as I demonstrate structures or answer questions. I do the same thing with tissues, muscles—well, all the rest of the stuff we do in lab!

Your Elsevier rep can help make sure your students have the choice of a binder-ready version of Anatomy & Physiology.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Got Proteasomes?

For several editions, Anatomy & Physiology has featured a brief description of the structure and function of proteasomes in the cell.  As several recent papers in Science, Nature, and other journals point out, understanding the proteasome is critical to understanding how the cell handles protein—a "big idea" in the A&P course.

Beyond that, dysfunctions in the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) have been implicated in a wide variety of important health conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease), drug addictions, learning disorders, cardiovascular disease, immune dysfunctions, and others.  Manipulation of the UPS has been proposed for various medical therapies, as well.

For example, the drug bortezomib (Velcade) is a proteasome inhibitor used to treat some adults with multiple myeloma.

So given the central role of the proteosome, why is this vitally important organelle left out of most A&P textbooks?  Really, I'm asking.  Because I can't think of a good reason.

Besides its emerging role in understanding major diseases and therapeutic strategies, the proteosome gives students a more complete picture of the cell as a "protein factory." It helps integrate the whole protein synthesize story with the basic concepts of amino acids and protein folding learned earlier in the course.  Not to mention the homeostasis of amino acid balance in cells.

The proteasome story can be told simply, so there's no reason to leave it out for the reason that "it's just too much detail" for a beginning student to handle.  Check out this resource intended for high-school students: The Proteasome.

Anatomy & Physiology features a short, illustrated description of the ubiquitin-proteasome system that easily integrates with the bigger picture of protein handling in the cell.  It's on page 85 of the new 9th edition.  Now you know why I included it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Handy Supplement Helps Students Master the Lingo of A&P

In my two previous posts, I explained my rationale behind providing tools for A&P students to easily master the language of A&P.  In Word Lists Help Students Build Their Mental Lexicons, I discussed a proven method to help students improve their reading comprehension using chapter word lists. In Word Parts Help Students Master the Language of Science, I discussed how word-study strategies can help students learn their terminology easily and permanently.

In this third installment, I'd like to give you a tour of the supplement Quick Guide to the Language of Science and Medicine—which I usually just call "the Quick Guide."

Packaged at no extra cost with Anatomy & Physiologythis handy guide complements the Language of Science and Language of Medicine word lists in each chapter of the main textbook. Think of it as the conceptual framework for using the word parts in those chapter lists. It's found along with the Brief Atlas of the Human Body inside the booklet labeled Brief Atlas & Quick Guide.

By the way, this booklet is also available as a separate piece, in case students who didn't get one with their used textbook want one. Just ask your Elsevier rep about how to get your bookstore to stock it.

What is the Quick Guide?  I'll get to the specifics in a moment, but in general it is a small set of tools that helps students along as they read and study A&P. It's sort of a Swiss army knife of handy little helpers that get students unstuck from problems using scientific terminology—or help set them on the right path in the first place.

What tools are included in the Quick Guide?  An annotated outline follows.

Learning and Using Scientific Terms (an introduction to general principles of terminology)
  • Most Terms Come from Latin and Greek
    • Sets the mindset of learning an new language
  • Terms Are Made by Combining Word Parts
    • Brief rundown of roots, prefixes, and suffixes
  • Some Terms Use Latin Plural Forms
    • Includes a table of common pluralizations (e.g., diaphysis/diaphyses, axis/axes)
  • Avoid Confusing Adjectives with Nouns
    • Explains why pectoral is an adjective and pectoral muscle is a noun with a modifying adjective)
  • Correct Spelling is Important
    • Promotes precision, which is important for safety in clinical settings.
    • Includes a table contrasting U.S. and U.K. spellings
  • Correct Pronunciation is Important
    • Emphasizes the need for clear and accurate communications
    • Includes how to find pronunciations and regional differences in pronunciation
  • Be Aware of Alternate Terminology
    • Explains why more than one alternate exists
    • Defines eponyms and their current usage
  • Practice New Terminology
    • Gives hints on how best to learn the terminology of A&P
Table 1  Word Parts Commonly Used as Prefixes
  • Defines word part and its meaning(s)
Table 2  Word Parts Commonly Used as Suffixes
  • Defines word part and its meaning(s)
Table 3  Word Parts Commonly Used as Roots
  • Defines word part and its meaning(s)
Table 4  Abbreviations Used for Anatomical Directions
Table 5  Common Eponyms and Equivalent Descriptive Terms
  • Gives the eponym, its descriptive equivalent, and its location in the body
Table 6  Scientific Symbols, Acronyms, and Abbreviations
  • Lists terms related to the basic sciences (not the clinical sciences)
Table 7  Medical Symbols, Acronyms, and Abbreviations
  • Lists terms related to the clinical sciences (not the basic sciences)
  • Mentions which symbols are now banned in clinical practice
Table 8  Chemical Symbols, Formulas, and Acronyms
  • Lists chemical symbols used frequently in A&P, along with their written form
Table 9  Greek Alphabet
  • A list of uppercase and lowercase Greek letters in alphabetic order
  • Helps students better understand the use of alpha, beta, gamma, delta, etc. in A&P terminology
Table 10 Roman Numerals
  • Helps students who never really learned Roman numerals, but need them understand cranial nerve notation and other terminology

There are also plenty of brief Hints scattered throughout the Quick Guide to help each student avoid common pitfalls in using scientific language.

word cloud

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Word Parts Help Students Master the Language of Science

You can't really learn and experience what's going on in your world until you can use the language.

In an A&P course, most students don't come in as native speakers of scientific terminology. Even if they know what roots, suffixes, and prefixes are, most of them don't know the literal meanings of "meta," "juxta," "reno," or "cyto." If they pick up these word parts as they learn, however, they can quickly get comfortable with the language of A&P—and really ramp up their learning of core concepts.

In Anatomy & Physiology, we have woven language learning into every chapter so that students can more efficiently master the language of A&P.

Nearly every A&P teacher I know mentions word parts frequently in class discussions—especially when introducing the more convoluted terms that represent important concepts.

Besides breaking down impossibly long words into easily consumed, bite-sized pieces, it's also a stealthy strategy to "sneak in" some language learning. Without having to "put it on the test" we can introduce word parts— and how they are used to construct phrase-like terms—in a way that allows natural language learning. Students often don't even realize that our repeated mentioning of the meaning of common word parts is adding to their mental lexicon. Soon they start recognizing these word parts on their own.

When students know what common word parts mean, they start using them as mnemonic tools (memory aids). They find themselves using the word parts as clues to remember the actual working definition of the term—and the essence of the concept that the term represents.

In Anatomy & Physiology, we support this widely used classroom approach in several ways. A central strategy is our inclusion of word parts in the chapter word lists.

In a recent post, I described our chapter word lists and explained how previewing unfamiliar words before reading a chapter helps to get those words into the reader's mental lexicon more quickly—and how that, in turn, improves reading comprehension. See Word Lists Help Students Build Their Mental Lexicons. Because we also include word parts in the chapter word lists, scanning these lists naturally builds competence in scientific language.

A widespread and effective strategy in teaching reading skills—from elementary school to advanced courses in college reading efficiency—is often called word study. In a nutshell, word study instruction encourages readers to strengthen their recognition of word patterns as first step, rather than simply memorizing new words as they encounter them. This is based on the fact that we read words and phrases as a whole.  It's one of many brain-based strategies of learning that translate current concepts of neuroscience into practical strategies.

Incorporating word parts in the chapter word list, where they can be scanned before reading the chapter, offers the opportunity for readers of Anatomy & Physiology to make the word study method part of their overall reading strategy. By building pattern-recognition skills, readers can better get new terms into their mental lexicon and thus be able to read them without stumbling and thus learn concepts more efficiently.

But wait! There's more! In Anatomy & Physiology, we provide even more built-in tools to help students gain skill in using their new language.  In my next post, I'll point these out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Word Lists Help Students Build Their Mental Lexicons

When I was an undergraduate, I thought word lists that I encountered in a textbook were worthless. Besides that, I thought they were kind of middle-schoolish—something you'd see in a sixth-grade geography book.

But back then, I was an "okay" student with excellent reading comprehension skills who didn't realize that I could do much better in less time

Once I learned something about teaching and learning—especially some of the newer concepts coming out of the brain-based learning movement—I've changed my tune about word lists in college textbooks.

Sure, they can be used like we're in sixth grade: as a checklist of vocabulary words that are likely to show up on a test. But now I know that there is a much more powerful use of word lists: building the A&P lexicon in my brain so I can more easily understand what I read.

Although neuroscientists are still working out the minute details of how we read and remember things, we've come a long way on that front in the last few years. One thing that seems clear is that we have a sort of lexicon (word list) in our mind.

When we see, hear, and speak words, those words get onto our word lists—WHETHER WE KNOW WHAT THEY MEAN OR NOT. Come on, you recognize words all the time that you know you've seen and heard before but have little or no idea what they mean yet. That's okay. That's the necessary first step toward learning the meaning—and really owning the term.

In fact, you know that this is a necessary step before an infant can learn to speak their native language, or before a child or adult can speak or read in a second language. One has to hear the words before one can take the first steps in actually understanding and using the language. Babies who do not hear language spoken around them—regardless of any meaning—cannot learn to speak and use language naturally and efficiently.

What does this have to do with word lists in textbooks? Reading experts have long advised college students to enhance their reading of technical texts by reading all the boldface terms in a chapter OUT LOUD before actually reading the chapter. Why? Because that gets the words into the lexicon in our brains so that we are primed to learn the meaning of the term—and truly own it—when we later encounter it in reading.

To make that proven process more effective in Anatomy & Physiology, I have included word lists in each chapter. These word lists, which start at the beginning of each chapter, allow readers to quickly read through all the boldface terms as a list, rather than trying to hunt them down in the narrative over many pages of the chapter.

To make this work even better, I've included a simple pronunciation key for each term. Neuroscientists and reading experts alike tell us that getting a pronunciation right from the get-go is essential for success in getting terms into our mental lexicons and making them readable. Because we read whole words—not letters or word parts—recognizing a term with which we have already linked a pronunciation is clearly a vital step.

If we don't have a good pronunciation of a word, we can't recognize it easily—and eventually learn its meaning—when we run across it again in our reading. Without having a handle on the pronunciation, a term like carbaminohemoglobin might as well be καρβαμινοαιμοσφαιρίνης.

Some textbooks include pronunciation guides in-line—that is, as the term appears in the text narrative. That makes sense only because that's what we're used to. It does not make sense when you know how the brain reads and comprehends. Such in-line pronunciation keys fail in at least two important ways.

First, they are too late. The recognition of the letter combination as a unit (a word) and linking that with "how it sounds" in our head and in our ear has to be there BEFORE we encounter it reading.

The second problem with in-line pronunciation keys is that they are big bumps in the road. As we read along, stopping even occasionally to read a pronunciation key to see if we've got it right is a huge disruption to our train of thought. In fact, it often derails our train of thought and we have to go back and restart the section if we really want to understand what's going on. It may not SEEM like a big deal, because perhaps we're used to such bumpy roads and mangled railroad tracks, but it really does disrupt the thinking of a reader already struggling with understanding complex concepts using complex terminology.

Because of thoughtful formatting of fonts in the chapter word lists in Anatomy & Physiology, readers can use the pronunciation keys or not.  Some students already have some of the language—but many do not.

In Anatomy & Physiology I tell readers (in the HINT at the top of each chapter's word list) to pronounce each word out loud before reading the chapter. I realize that many will ignore this advice and skip right to the text narrative. My students (and my children) ignore my hard-won, experience-based advice all time. I've gotten used to it.

But for the few A&P students who take my advice, or take YOUR advice to them, this technique really works. How do I know it works? My A&P students who have taken this advice while using the 7th and 8th editions of Anatomy & Physiology have reported great success with it. I guess those neuroscientists and reading experts are right, eh?

In my next post, I'll address some other helpful aspects of the chapter word lists.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

That Crazy Cover!

What in the world is that crazy, brilliantly colored thing on the cover of Anatomy & Physiology supposed to be?!

At first glance, it may appear to be a work of abstract art.  However, it's an actual recorded image of some of the nerve pathways in the human brain.

Using some modern twists on the classic techniques of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neuroscientists can isolate and color-code specific nerve pathways of the brain. The strategy used in our cover image is called diffusion MRI, of which there are several specific varieties. The Human Connectome Project (HCP) is now underway, identifying connections that were nearly impossible map until recently using diffusion MRI and other techniques.

Our cover image was made using a type of diffusion MRI called diffusion spectral imaging (DSI).  In this image, the red color codes for left-right fibers, green for anterior-posterior fibers, and blue for fibers that go through the brain stem.

There are several recent maps of brain connections used to illustrate concepts in the new edition of Anatomy & Physiology.  For example, on p. 455 there is such a map illustrating the concept of cerebral tracts.  On p. 469, another such map illustrates the damage that can occur in a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a very dramatic and memorable way.

The primary reason we chose this type of image for the cover is that it's just really cool!  But it also serves as a symbol for the efforts we put into keeping pace with the latest efforts in human science—or at least those efforts significant to beginning learners in anatomy and physiology.

This odd, dramatic cover could be a great way to jump-start a discussion in your class about the progress of human basic sciences, of medical imaging, or a more specific discussion of neuroscience. You could point your students to the brief description of the image on the unnumbered page facing the full title page of the textbook (labeled ON THE COVER).

Or you could refer students to the website of the HGP at or directly to the image gallery at  Challenge your students to find our cover image in that gallery!

If you want more information on how diffusion MRI works, and what DSI is, I recommend the article What's the Matter? at The Scientist magazine.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A&P Connect Helps Students Integrate Concepts

In the 7th edition of Anatomy & Physiology, we introduced an online supplemental feature called A&P Connect.  This was the logical evolution of sidebars and boxed essays into a digital format.

We've always heard from students how much they like boxed essays in the print version of the Anatomy & Physiology. The more our users explored, the more interested in—and enthused about—anatomy and physiology they become.

Putting additional topics of interest on a digital platform seemed to be a great way to better satisfy the natural curiosity of A&P students—and let students get a deeper understanding of concepts by exploring clinical applications, principles of sports physiology, and current research trends.

What we soon found out was that branching out into our digital A&P Connect platform, we had the freedom to add diagrams, anatomical art, medical images, and micrographs that we simply didn't have room to add to the textbook proper.  Because most concepts of anatomy and physiology benefit by such visual representations, students have welcomed this evolution of the traditional sidebar.

Because A&P Connect articles are not located in a particular spot in a print book, they can be easily referenced in any part of the book.  In the digital format of Anatomy & Physiology, these take the form of hyperlinks that take students directly to the A&P Connect entry. In the new 9th edition, we leveraged this strategy to help student better integrate the concepts they are learning.

For example, the new A&P Connect article on the human microbiome not only explains an emerging central concept of human biology—it also allows us to apply the concept to almost every system of the body. The article itself integrates many organ systems in its approach, so when it is reviewed in different chapters of the book, new and deeper understanding of how the functions of the body are integrated emerges.

Repeated mention of an integrating topic also reinforces the understanding of the connectedness of human structure and function.

Another example is our A&P Connect article Sensing Food, which helps integrate concepts of both general and special senses with discussions of chemistry, cranial nerves, digestion, nutrition, fluid and electrolyte balance,

I'm very excited about this intentional use of our A&P Connect articles in helping students integrate concepts of A&P to achieve a deeper understanding of human biology.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Anatomy & Physiology NINTH EDITION is in the oven

'Tis the season for baking, and the ninth edition of Anatomy & Physiology is finally in the oven!

All the research, fiddling with the recipe, choosing just the right ingredients, and complex steps of mixing, kneading, rising, and preparing are done.  Now's the phase when it's safely out of my hands and is becoming a finished product, ready to fill you up!

How long will it  bake? Well, after the printing (which has just started), there's the drying, cutting, and gathering of pages.  And the binding.  Or the punching of holes in the binder-ready version.  And the digital version is having all it's hyperlinks put in good working order.  Only then will it be ready to roll out of the kitchen.

When will it be ready to consume? January 5th, 2015.

Want to get a taste of it as soon as it's ready?  Click here and request a REVIEW COPY.

My inspiration for this analogy is Kellie White, the Executive Content Strategist for the textbook. She's the baking expert who runs our "kitchen."  Really. Outside the office, Kellie is a talented baker and chef who has won many baking and cooking awards!

Yep, those are Kellie's bagels pictured here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Anatomical Rosettes Help Students Orient Themselves

We are all familiar with compass rosettes used on maps.  Those little flower-like icons surrounded with N, S, E, W at the corner of the map help us figure out how to orient ourselves in the places represented by the map.

When using a map in which we cannot recognize any familiar landmarks, we almost subconsciously check the compass rosette, don't we?  That's the first step in learning how to look at the new place we are about to explore.  After a while, though, we don't need that rosette anymore.  For example, when I look at a map of my hometown and see the familiar confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, I can easily orient myself to the rest of the map. I don't even think of looking at the rosette.

In Anatomy & Physiology, we use the same device for helping readers orient themselves anatomical diagrams and photos.  Our anatomical rosette looks just like the compass rosette you'd see on a geographical map. However, instead of N, S, E, and W, you'll find S (superior), I (inferior), A (anterior), P (posterior), and so on.

When looking at these anatomical rosettes, a beginner can immediately figure out "which way is up" and go from there—instead of getting mired down in spatial confusion.  Our readers also get repeated practice in using the directional terminology of anatomy—eventually allowing them to determine correct directions with barely a thought.

All of our readers are beginners, so they need this kind of help to get a good start.  We instructors don't need that—we already know our way around these anatomical views.

By having anatomical rosettes available in every anatomical illustration of Anatomy & Physiology, students have the training tools they need to gain the expertise that we instructors already have.  By the time they've made it through to the end, our readers will not likely ever need these helps again. They know they "lay of the land" and can now find their way with their internal anatomical compass.

I didn't start looking for compass rosettes in geographical maps until somebody showed them to me and explained how they work.  Consider taking a moment at the beginning of your A&P course to point out the anatomical rosettes and show your students how they work.  You may want to refer your students to the explanation in Chapter 1 of the text and to the handy reference chart on the inside back cover of the book.