Monday, February 22, 2016

Chapter Hints Improve Learning

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 anatomy and physiology textbook? Probably not.

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

Technically detailed textbooks such as science 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 Structure & Function of the Body.

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.

Take a look at any chapter in Structure & Function of the Body 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!

Adapted from Anatomy & Physiology


Monday, February 15, 2016

Anatomical Compass Points Help Students Find Their Way

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 Structure & Function of the Body, 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 (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 Structure & Function of the Body, 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 front cover of the book.


 Adapted from Anatomy & Physiology

Monday, February 8, 2016

Active Concept Maps Help Students Learn Connections

We all know that concept maps help students learn anatomy and physiology in at least two ways.

One way is when we use concept maps to teach principles in a visual manner that clearly shows relationships among several ideas. Students thus clearly see how to organize their thoughts about connected ideas as they construct their own conceptual frameworks as they learn.

Another way concept maps help students learn is when they build their own concept maps from what they already know about anatomy and physiology. Concept-map-making can thus be a powerful study tool. However, students without prior experience with concept maps often have a difficult time getting started. A few good examples of concept maps that relate to the ideas they are learning in your course are all they need to get a good start in making their own.

Starting with this edition of Structure & Function of the Body we are providing Active Concept Maps in the Student Resources in Evolve

Each Active Concept Map is an animated video of a concept map presented in a similar style to the concept maps used throughout the text of Structure & Function of the Body. However, these concept maps are "active" in the sense that they build from a single block as the narrator walks the viewer through each related concept that appears as the concept map branches and grows.

The block-by-block guided walk-through of a major concept will help students understand what they have read and heard in class more deeply. It will also model for students how they can build their own concept maps for other sets of related ideas that they encounter in your course.

Perhaps most importantly, the Active Concept Maps will provide a template for how to think in a "connected" way about the major concepts of the anatomy and physiology course. For challenged students, this is an especially important skill they must develop to succeed.

Here's a brief video walk-through that shows where to find Active Concept Maps in Evolve and how they work:

Monday, February 1, 2016

What's Different in the New Edition?


When I pick up the new edition of a textbook with which I'm familiar, I usually flip through it to see how different it is from the previous edition.  And nearly always, I think "hmm...looks pretty much the same except for a new cover and a few tweaks to the page design."  And then as I delve into it, I start realizing that there are a substantial number of changes that didn't pop out at me at first glance.

When I'm teaching with that textbook, such changes are critical.  If I'm not aware of them, my students could get very confused on several points. Which begs the question, "How do you know where the changes are when your anatomy textbook is revised?"

How many times have you flipped through a chapter in a new edition and thought, "this looks pretty much the same as in the last edition"—only to have a student later point out that a term has changed, an image revised, or a section added?

Yeah, me too!

So that's why I've started keeping a log of all the changes I make globally and as I revise each chapter for a new edition.  This log—called a Changes to the 15th Edition—is available to instructors.  In the new edition of Structure & Function of the Bodyteachers can log into the Instructor Resources at Evolve to access this handy guide.

When you start using the new edition of Structure & Function of the Body, you may wonder how histology content was split out (chunked) from the larger Cells and Tissues chapter in the previous edition and exactly what changes were made. That is, you want to know what specifically will impact your teaching.

With the new update guide, you'll be able to see what changes were made and you can then easily determine which, if any, have a practical impact on your course.  Perhaps you need to change a chapter number, or maybe provide an alternate term, or possibly add a new image to your PowerPoint presentation.

I always wanted to have something like this when I was teaching other courses and a new edition of the textbook came out.  Even when I found the changes on my own (or more likely, when a student pointed out a conflict between what I told them was in the book and what was actually in the book), I didn't always understand why those changes were made.

So I created the update guide so you can not only see what revisions were made, but also a brief note about the rationale for the changes.

My plan is to also share some additional background and rationales for specific updates and textbook features here in this blog, where I have a bit more space to fully explain them.

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Cartoon:adapted from Raúl Ruano Ruiz
Photo: K Patton

Monday, December 28, 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 a beginning anatomy and physiology 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 science—and really ramp up their learning of core concepts.

In Structure & Function of the Body, we have woven language learning into every chapter so that students can more efficiently master the language of science.

Nearly every anatomy and physiology 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 Structure & Function of the Body, 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 Enhanced Word Lists Help Students Quickly Build Vocabulary. 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 Structure & Function of the Body 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 Structure & Function of the Bodywe provide even more built-in tools to help students gain skill in using their new language. In an upcoming post, I'll point these out.


Article content adapted from Anatomy & Physiology

Monday, December 21, 2015

Enhanced Word Lists Help Students Quickly Build Vocabulary

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. That is, after I found out that they can make a technical textbook like Structure & Function of the Body much more effective for college learners.

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 science 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.

Word List sample
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 first 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 helps get 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 Structure & Function of the Body, 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 as professionals are 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 Structure & Function of the Body, readers can use the pronunciation keys or not.  Some students already have some of the language—but many do not.

In Structure & Function of the Body 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  students who take my advice, or take YOUR advice to them, this technique really works. How do I know it works? My own students who have taken this advice while using these word lists 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.


Brain image from doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.07.012
Article content adapted from Anatomy & Physiology

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New Edition of Structure & Function of the Body Coming in November!

It's at the printer!

The new 15th edition of Structure & Function of the Body is out of my hands, and the hands of my editorial team, and has landed safely at the facilities that print, gather, stitch, bind, shrink-wrap, box up, and put the bows on the published book.

By the end of November, you can hold one in your hands—or view it on your iPad or Kindle—and see for yourself what I'm so excited about.

It's an edition full of "firsts" for Structure & Function of the Body, all of which I'll be revealing in future posts at this blog. I'll also be explaining the rationale for each of these innovations from a teaching and learning perspective.

Want to make sure you are kept in the loop? Then why not subscribe to receive an email (or tweet or whatever) as soon as I post each new article here?