What is spacing and how does it work in real life when studying A&P? It's pretty simple...
To summarize, simply spread out your studying--and keep going back over previous material.
Here's a short video that summarizes the spaced practice technique (and why it works).
Click here for links to posters and other resources you can print out to help remind you how spaced practice works--until you get the hang of it and it becomes a habit. While you are there, be sure to sign up for the free newsletter from The Learning Scientists.
Need some tips on time management to make sure your spacing is planned out well?
Margaret Reece PhD is an educator, scientist and author whose expertise lies in the area of human physiology. Dr. Reece is presently CEO of Reece Biomedical Consulting LLC, a company dedicated to supporting undergraduate life science and graduate medical students in their efforts to master the complexities of human anatomy and physiology.
What strikes me most about Margaret Reece is her enthusiastic dedication to helping students "get it"—especially when they think they'll never be able to.
If you are interested in learning more about this course, which starts January 9, then click on this link:
And tell Dr. Reece I sent you!
I've offered advice on the value of sleep and napping in this blog many times before. We don't know exactly how it helps us learn and remember, but neuroscientists are getting closer. But why it works isn't as important as the fact that it does work when you are getting ready for that next exam.
The recent research points out that cramming can have a bit of an edge if your goal is short-term memory. But for the long-term memory needed for most exams, especially cumulative or comprehensive exams, napping works just as well. And let's face it—it's way easier than cramming.
You also need long-term memory so that you can "take it with you" out of your A&P course. You are required to take anatomy and physiology courses in your program because they give essential concepts you need in later courses—and in your career. So why waste your time and effort by purposely "throwing away" all those concepts by failing to get them into your long-term memory?
Of course, napping cannot be your only preparation for a test! (I know where your thoughts were going with this!) There's a lot of work you need to do.
But in the brief time you have before your test, it may be better to get your brain in shape—perhaps allowing some sleep-time consolidation and organizing of knowledge—than to review and revise what you've already (hopefully) been working on. It might also prevent the escalation of test anxiety that often accompanies last-minute cramming.
Want to know more?
Advice from this blog about sleeping and studying:
Napping before an exam is as good for your memory as cramming.
Photo: Jocilyn Pope
We all say things we would avoid saying—or saying it in a particular way—if we knew their impact ahead of time. We professors often get questions from our students that are ill-considered—and often reflect badly on the students asking them.
Think carefully before asking these 10 questions!
But in most circumstances, what a professor is likely to hear is, "I don't want to bother looking this up online or in my course syllabus, so take some of your time now to tell me."
What to do instead? Look it up, so you don't have to ask. This may seem like a small thing, but when a professor has several students asking these questions as they are busily trying to make room for the next professor to set up for their class, or get going to the next class or meeting, or set things up for your class, it can make a bigger, more negative impact, than you may realize.
We live in world where online help desks are often staffed 24/7, or at least for several hours every day. Often, there are helpers standing by on a chat line to give immediate help. And a lot of college-age people seem to continually check their devices for new messages. And so we have come to expect immediate responses to our questions.
Professors, however, have many responsibilities. The majority of us are part-time faculty who are trying to scratch out a living by teaching many courses at several different institutions. Both full- and part-time faculty have meetings, appointments, grading, lecture preparation, research, constructing quizzes and tests, setting up labs and demos, and more. And we have our additional "life" responsibilities to ourselves, our friends, and our families.
So it's just not possible to be available to respond to emails 24/7. We are not blowing you off. We are attending to our duties—including eating and sleeping.
Besides that, many of us are of a generation that simply does not "check in" with digital messages very often.
I realize that not having an immediate answer to your question can provoke anxiety. First, reflect on the actual urgency of the matter. Can it wait a day or two? If not, perhaps there are other resources to use, such as asking other students, asking someone else at your college, or looking in more places to find the answer (have you tried the syllabus?).
If you find that you really are having a hard time regularly connecting with your professor, ask them (nicely) what times and manner of contact generally work best for them? Who else might you contact if you have a truly urgent matter and the professor is unavailable?
Also consider that some questions take some time to answer. Perhaps the professor is researching a technical issue for you, or has to check with colleagues, the department chair, or dean before responding to you. Or is double-checking their facts. Or trying to hunt down "that page in the book that says..." for which you forgot to give the page number.
Besides that, it implies that you want the professor to individually accommodate your "catching up"—if that's even possible. If it is possible, then you are asking your professor to take on a significant additional workload. For your vacation, which you may not realize is not even an option for your professor during the semester. What if ten or twenty students ask this? Yikes.
Professors often hear this question as, "I want to blow off much of this class and still get a good grade—and make you work harder—so I can lay on the beach for a couple of weeks."
So I can tell you before you ask it—it is NOT okay to take a two-week vacation during your course. But don't fret, we have a way around this! Take the course next semester instead. Sure, you'll be a bit behind your planned graduation date, but that's what it will take to make it work.
Once you understand that it's nearly impossible for most students to succeed in A&P when they miss that much of the course—and that it's a big imposition on your professor to accommodate this—it's okay to present your situation if it's something more important than a vacation keeping you out. Like a surgery that can't be delayed, for example. Or you must go to Sweden or Norway to accept your Nobel Prize.
I suggest laying out your circumstances, clarifying that you acknowledge the extra work an accommodation will mean for both you and your professor, and ask your professor for suggestions. Likely, they will recommend taking the course during a later semester—but they might have another solution they can offer.
The first of these two questions can imply that you are questioning your professor's ability to design an effective course. One of the fundamental roles of a professor is to choose from a variety of proven strategies and examples, based on their professional judgement, training, and experience. This is an application of a core principle of higher education called academic freedom. Your professor probably already knows that their course is not quite the same as other sections of the same course. What is the constructive purpose in telling your professor?
A better approach is something like, "I've noticed that your course is different than some others I've heard of and I'm interested to know the benefits of your approach." Then ask them about specific things that you want to know about. For example, "why do give more tests than some other teachers?" Or perhaps, "not all sections have a term paper assignment—why do feel that's important for us?"
This leads us into the second question listed above. The role of a the professor is not to make the course as easy as possible. Learning is hard, not easy. So why even take the course if you want your professor to be easy on you? Maybe the professor has found that the learning benefits of more frequent testing or writing assignments have a big impact on learning outcomes. You want a good course—an effective course—not the easiest course.
Instead, consider asking, "What is it about frequent testing that works better than fewer tests?" But if there's something not likely to impact your learning, it's okay to bring that up in an office discussion with your professor. For example, you might ask, "you require that our paper be submitted as a PDF file, but most of us don't know how to do that--have you considered allow us to submit them as .docx files?" There may be a good reason for the requirement, and you'll get a chance to hear it (and appreciate it). But it could be something with which the professor can be flexible.
Instead, privately tell your professor about an unavoidable absence—and it really should be unavoidable. Then acknowledge that you are missing a great opportunity for learning. Then ask if the professor has any suggestions for limiting the damage to your learning.
Sometimes, the real question behind these potentially insulting questions is really something like, "are we going to have any graded work during class?" such as a quiz or case study or something like that. In that case, apologize for the unavoidable absence and ask specifically if graded work was required and ask for suggestions on an alternate activity.
There are more!
These are only a few of the many such questions that students commonly ask, such as "can I turn in my assignment late?" When I first got the idea for this article during a discussion with faculty and students, I started jotting down examples—and before I knew it, I had dozens of them! So expect some additional examples in future postings.
Now may be a good time to subscribe, so that you don't miss any new articles as they are posted. And you'll know how to ask questions in a courteous, professional manner! And make it clear to your professor that you really do care about your learning!
(middle high) Benito LeGrand
(middle) Iwan Beijes
(bottom): Holzi Holzer
This idea of "thinking about your thinking" is called metacognition (met-ah-kog-NISH-un). And it works both in sports and in learning. It is especially important and effective in learning a subject as overwhelming as human anatomy & physiology.
In other words, if you regularly step back from what you are doing and think about the strategies you are using (or forgetting to use) in your A&P course, you'll do better than if you just struggle along trying to "get it" all into your brain.
There's evidence that metacognition alone can improve your success in learning. That means that just the process of regularly thinking about how you are managing your learning—by itself—can make you more successful. But that's probably because when you thus reflect on your own struggles in learning, you are more likely to tweak your strategies and watch for pitfalls in ways that make you a better student of A&P.
Some students do this kind of metacognition on their own because they've either learned it along the way, or they have a mindset that naturally tends toward metacognition. But even if your mindset doesn't naturally think this way, it's okay—it's easily learned.
Following are some ways to get more "metacognitive" about your coursework—and thus get your "head in game."
This is just the start. Once you make a habit of thinking about your learning, and gain specific skills in keeping your head in game, you can be more successful in all your courses—and in your career!
Explore the resources below for more tips.
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Photo (top): melodi2
Photo (bottom): yalcin Eren