Critical thinking Anatomy & Physiology

Published February 2, 2018

By Steve Sullivan, Bucks County Community College

Hi. My name is Steve Sullivan, professor of anatomy & physiology at Bucks County Community College. I’ve been teaching A&P since 2002 and one of the most glaring problems I am faced with is a lack of critical thinking skills and the ability to apply the concepts we learn in A&P. My main problem was not so much that my students didn’t have these skills coming in, but that I wasn’t giving them the opportunity to learn and practice these skills before my exams

Leading cognitive scientists, like Daniel Willingham from the University of Virginia, have found that “for a new skill to become automatic or for new knowledge to become long-lasting, sustained practice, beyond the point of mastery, is necessary.” They have to be attempting critical thinking and concept application level activities as practice.

I’ve found that the best way for me to make sure my students are practicing the higher level thinking skills, to use McGraw-Hill’s Connect question banks and other digital resources.

The question banks in Connect for A&P have thousands of questions that span the range of Bloom’s Taxonomy that you can assign for homework or in-class activities. Each of these questions is based on one of McGraw-Hill’s leading A&P texts. They use the same terminology, same artwork, and same levels of depth and breadth.

The question styles that are available allow instructors to assess their students’ understanding in multiple ways and at multiple levels. For example, you can start with the basics like identifying the names of the major cellular structures or principal muscles, which is important for our course. Then, you can assess their ability to apply their functions to conditions and symptoms, should something go wrong.

Another high-level activity for students utilizes interactive animations. These high-resolution, comprehensive animations cover complex physiological processes and require the student to answer questions, interact with the artwork, and drive the animation forward. They must demonstrate an understanding in order for the animation to continue. It’s an active learning animation, rather than just a passive viewing experience.

Or you can make sure they fully understand the sequence of events in a muscle contraction by having them complete sentences and then reorder them so they accurately explain the process. These are just a couple of examples of the thousands of questions included with any McGraw-Hill A&P text. Best of all, they’re auto-graded, making them easy to assign without a huge time commitment on your part.

These interactive animations are also assignable in Connect. The assignments not only require the students to view and participate in the animation; they tag them to a series of questions beginning with remembering baseline information from the animation and ramping up to higher level, case study-like questions and problems.

The best thing about these high-level, critical thinking, and problem solving digital resources available in Connect is that you can require that students complete them by a specific due date and make it part of their grade without a large time commitment on your part.

Finding pedagogically sound, comprehensive resources is half the battle. Getting them to actually do them, and learn something while they do, is the rest! But don’t worry. Connect has you covered with these assignable resources.