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)

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