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Online Testing Effectiveness Data | Turning My Gray Hair Brown | TAPP 102

by Kevin Patton

Online Testing Effectiveness Data | Turning My Gray Hair Brown

TAPP Radio Episode 102


Episode | Quick Take

Can you believe it? Even more questions about my wacky testing scheme are answered in this episode—this time regarding stats demonstrating effectiveness of these strategies. I also talk about gray hair turning brown, naturally, why we do NOT want our students to master A&P concepts, and why we want to become the hippocampus. One of the weirdest episodes yet!

  • 00:00 | Introduction
  • 00:42 | Growing in Kindness
  • 10:02 | Sponsored by AAA
  • 10:52 | We Are the Hippocampus
  • 17:03| Sponsored by HAPI
  • 17:46 | Turn My Gray Hair Brown
  • 22:39 | Sponsored by HAPS
  • 23:18 | Online Testing: Effectiveness Data
  • 50:16 | Staying Connected


Episode | Listen Now

Episode | Show Notes

If you need statistics to prove it, it isn’t true. (anonymous professor)


Growing in Kindness

9.5 minutes

Following up on a theme about being sensitive and accurate in our terminology introduced in Episode 101, Kevin discusses wrestling with the term master and its derivatives such as mastery. This is part of his efforts at becoming a kinder, more compassionate, and more empathetic teacher.


Sponsored by AAA

0.5 minutes

A searchable transcript for this episode, as well as the captioned audiogram of this episode, are sponsored by the American Association for Anatomy (AAA) at anatomy.org.

Searchable transcript

Captioned audiogram 

Don’t forget—HAPS members get a deep discount on AAA membership!

AAA logo


We Are the Hippocampus

6 minutes

New information about the functions of the hippocampus suggest that it helps us link together memories to form a kind of narrative in our minds. Likewise, the A&P instructor helps students connect together seemingly distant concepts into a coherent narrative. Let’s be the hippocampus!


Sponsored by HAPI Online Graduate Program

0.5 minute

The Master of Science in Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction—the MS-HAPI—is a graduate program for A&P teachers, especially for those who already have a graduate/professional degree. A combination of science courses (enough to qualify you to teach at the college level) and courses in contemporary instructional practice, this program helps you be your best in both on-campus and remote teaching. Kevin Patton is a faculty member in this program at Northeast College of Health Sciences. Check it out!


Logo of Northeast College of Health Sciences, Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction


Turn My Gray Hair Brown

3 minutes

We know all too well that our hairs can turn from their natural color to white, giving the overall appearance of patches of gray hair. We also know that stress can be cause of that transformation. New research shows that in some people, a period of non-stress can allow some white hairs to return to their natural color. What?!


Sponsored by HAPS

0.5 minute

The Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS) is a sponsor of this podcast.  You can help appreciate their support by clicking the link below and checking out the many resources and benefits found there. Watch for virtual town hall meetings and upcoming regional meetings!

Anatomy & Physiology Society


HAPS logo


Online Testing: Effectiveness Data

27 minutes

All kinds of practical tips on using randomized tests, why we (especially) need transparency when using them, making test items, formats, student-generated test items, and more.

Need help accessing resources locked behind a paywall?
Check out this advice from Episode 32 to get what you need!

Episode | Transcript

The A&P Professor podcast (TAPP radio) episodes are made for listening, not reading. This transcript is provided for your convenience, but hey, it’s just not possible to capture the emphasis and dramatic delivery of the audio version. Or the cool theme music.  Or laughs and snorts. And because it’s generated by a combo of machine and human transcription, it may not be exactly right. So I strongly recommend listening by clicking the audio player provided.

AAA logoThis searchable transcript is supported by the
American Association for Anatomy.
I'm a member—maybe you should be one, too!

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Kevin Patton (00:00):
An anonymous professor was once quoted as saying, “If you need statistics to prove it, it isn’t true.”

Aileen (00:10):
Welcome to The A&P Professor, a few minutes to focus on teaching Human Anatomy & Physiology with a veteran educator and teaching mentor, your host, Kevin Patton.

Kevin Patton (00:23):
In this episode, I talk about mastering concepts. Why we want to be the hippocampus, turning my gray hair brown and stats regarding my wacky testings scheme.

Growing in Kindness

Kevin Patton (00:42):
I do not want my students to master the concepts of A&P. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want to think about the mastery of concepts in A&P. You’re probably thinking why? It doesn’t make any sense. Well, I think it will make sense in a minute and it’s of course, intentionally misleading, but it’s got you listening right now, right? Okay. So this goes back to a topic I brought up in the previous episode. That is episode 101. When I was talking about using the word normal, when we teach A&P. And I had mentioned that I was going through my latest revision project in a textbook. And our whole team was really looking closely at a certain terms that are often overused and can be problematic when teaching A&P or when teaching anything really. And one of those words is normal. And I said that, I found out I was using the word normal way too much, and that’s not good writing.

Kevin Patton (01:49):
And so that was a good reason I did that. And so we looked at every example of the use of the word “normal” in our book. And we looked at whether that was really the most appropriate term and very seldom was that really the most appropriate term? Most often we didn’t need the word at all. It was an unnecessary adjective, but sometimes there were other synonyms that we used instead of normal, like typical for example, or, well, there’s a whole list of different words that we found work better. And therefore they’re more clear to the student…

Read More

But the other benefit of this, and this is really what prompted us to do this is because of that potentially problematic part of it, because there are a lot of us including our students, but even we faculty who are not exactly in the middle of the various conditions, circumstances, structures, and functions that we consider to be typical or usual human structure and function. Were maybe somewhere closer to the edge of that spectrum or range of being human.

Kevin Patton (03:03):
Maybe we’re really far to one end of that spectrum of being fully human and not pathological and not damaged and not defective. And yet when we talk about well, the context in episode 101 was body temperature and there’s a wide range. And what we often think of as the normal, that is the mean in humans has changed over time and we’re not using what the current mean is as our common example. So calling it normal, isn’t really a great idea. But when we’re talking about other aspects of being human, it can get even more problematic because maybe being at, toward one end or the other of the spectrum of humanity, of human experience, of human identity, then maybe we have certain vulnerabilities. Maybe when we hear that term normal, it triggers a feeling, it triggers thoughts, it triggers concepts that we’re not intending to portray in our course.

Kevin Patton (04:17):
And that is distracting to learning and lead students down different trails than we’re trying to lead them. And in a way it does harm because we’re calling attention to something that maybe has harmed them in some way outside of our class. So it in itself becomes a reminder of harm and therefore harmful itself in a lot of ways, not every way, but in a lot of ways, I tend to be near the middle of that spectrum of humanity, or at least near the middle of what the dominant culture considers to be the middle or the norm or whatever for human experience and human identity and so on. But I’m an old, white, cis, straight male. And so, yeah, that’s a dominant experience in our culture and things are written from that perspective. And more and more I’ve been becoming aware of that dominance.

Kevin Patton (05:28):
And I don’t want to be dominant as far as being a teacher or being an educator, being a textbook author. I want to encourage everyone. I want to be helpful to everyone no matter where they are on the spectrum. So what does that have to do with mastering concepts? Well, one of those problematic terms is the term master and it’s derivatives like mastery. We also look for terms like master gland is an obsolete way of referring to the pituitary gland. And as it turns out, it was there, but with an explanation that it really isn’t a very helpful term. So we just took that out entirely. And we found references to DNA as the master code, which we also changed. And our culture here in the United States, certainly, but around the world as well, there’s this colonial kind of slavery and therefore a mastery that has occurred, that has caused untold harm and is still continuing to cause untold harm.

Kevin Patton (06:33):
And I don’t want to be part of that, and that word “master” and it’s derivative “mastery” never bothered me. I have used them a lot and I still do sometimes, but I do it unintentionally. I’m trying to train myself. I’m trying to change the habit of using those terms, unless I’m talking about something historical or whatever to describe what was going on. I don’t want to use it in my course though, to talk about being proficient in a concept or reaching proficiency or a high level of competency. There are other ways I can say, I just use the couple of those ways to say it. I don’t have to use the word master or mastery and I’m committing to stopping using that word. And that word in particular has taught me a big lesson because at first, when I first heard that problem with the term mastery, I thought oh, really? Does that really bother people.

Kevin Patton (07:30):
Does it, does that really bring up bad thoughts, negative thoughts when it comes up in the context of an explanation about a course or about the content of that course or about progress in that course is that really happened? But you know what? Just the very fact that I was educated about that started that happening in me. Still when I hear that term, I cringe, I’m not cringing because of the harm done to me are my family over the years because of the institution of slavery and the cruelty of the masters of slaves. Instead, it’s bringing up the idea of the fact that that happened. It’s bringing up the fact of the idea that people do have those thoughts when they hear that term, because I’m having thoughts, not the same thoughts, but it’s still being triggered in me who is not a direct victim of the institution of slavery.

Kevin Patton (08:31):
I think we’re all victims of slavery in one way or the other some much more than others, of course. And I don’t include myself in that category, but it has harmed my society. It harms the way I live in society and I just don’t want to be insensitive to my students. So I get triggered my sensitivity part of my brain, when I hear that term, I cringe and think, “Oh no, don’t use that word. That word creates harm for people.” So if that’s happening to me, the person probably least affected by the harmful side of using that kind of terminology, then I can’t imagine how harmful or at least at the very least distracting to students and educators who have been more directly harmed by this. So I guess my point is, is that, I don’t know, maybe we should all join together in helping each other, identify some of these problematic terms and encourage one another, not shoot each other down like, “Oh, oh, you said it, you said it, you said the bad word.” But instead just encourage each other and inform one another in the use of kind words.

Kevin Patton (09:44):
And I don’t think we’re ever, ever going to reach that ultimate goal of being the perfectly compassionate, perfectly kind, perfectly empathetic instructor. But by golly, every day, I’m going to commit to keep trying.

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton (10:02):
A searchable transcript and a captioned audiogram of this episode are funded by AAA, the American Association for Anatomy. Throughout the year, AAA provides an incredible amount of support in the form of awards and grants to educators from early career to late career. And I think some of them even applied post-career. If you need support for your work or your professional development, or if you want to recognize a peer for their contributions or just, I don’t know, check out what’s going on. Simply go to the American Association for Anatomy website anatomy.org.

We Are the Hippocampus

Kevin Patton (10:53):
If you’ve been listening to this podcast for any length of time, you know that I often sometimes annoyingly often bring up this idea of storytelling as a basic strategy of teaching. And of course what I mean by that is, yeah. Okay. We tell stories, we tell stories about a certain discovery that was made and how it was made, because that might somehow help inform or provide some background information for our students to understand that concept. But I also mean it in a much broader sense and that it’s up to us to take all of those concepts within anatomy and physiology and weave them together into a coherent framework or story. And that is worth telling the story of the human body. And we may not use story conventions like once upon a time there lived a little brain that had no, no, no.

Kevin Patton (11:45):
I mean, we can do that. Some people do that. I’ve done that within concepts from time to time telling stories about these two ions and the way they interact with one another or something like that. But what I really mean is are we laying out our concepts in a way that makes sense? And are we making sense of it? Are we telling the story in a way that makes sense to students? Or are we instead just saying, “Here’s this part and what it does, here’s this part and what it does and here’s this other part and what it does. And our test is on Tuesday.” That’s not storytelling, that’s just spewing out information. And I don’t mean just in lectures, lectures certainly need to be a story of some kind. But I also mean in all of the other components of our course, such as any active learning projects that we’re doing, case studies, for example things like that. Even just how the course is put together, we’re going to start with this topic first because it lays the basis of whatever. And then we’re going to cover this system and we’re covering this system next because whatever our rationale is.

Kevin Patton (12:54):
And as I’ve mentioned on many previous podcasts, the order of events in that story, aren’t really that critical as long as they make some sense. So it’s always amusing and be interesting to me when I find other A&P Faculty discussing whether this topic should come earlier than that topic and so on. And those are all useful and very intriguing conversations. I’d like to be part of those kind of discussions. But in the back of my mind, I also know that there are many ways to tell the same story. And what we need to find to storytellers is the way of telling a story that works for us. So that’s just the long way of summarizing some of the main ideas that I’ve talked about before, but the reason I’m bringing it up now is just really a few days ago, there was some information that came out about the role of the hippocampus in our brain.

Kevin Patton (13:49):
Because we’re now in this era of discovery in neuroscience, where we’re starting to see not just how individual memories are formed, we’re starting to tease out how those memories are put together and connections are made and not just at a very simplistic level, a little neural network model level of on switches and off switches and memories and so on. And all of that is essential basic work. And that’s still ongoing too. But what I’m talking about is that kind of research that’s really showing us how the brain takes all that stuff and make sense of it and then pulls it out when we really need it.

Kevin Patton (14:32):
And so there was an article in current biology. It came out of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California Davis, and it shows that the hippocampus, it plays the role of storyteller in the brain. It’s the one that recognizes, or it is that part, or at least contains part of that mechanism that is going to identify the elements of a story, and more importantly, identify how those elements connect with one another to make it a story. So I was kind of excited to read this because it’s just more evidence that my approach and I don’t mean mine, like I invented it, but the approach I’ve adopted of storytelling is one that is useful and it actually reflects the way the brain really works. And we’re seeing that the hippocampus is a center of that process. It’s a central agent of that process for now, at least we can call it the storyteller of the brain.

Kevin Patton (15:38):
And I guess by extension, what I can encourage myself and you to do is to think of ourselves as the hippocampus for our course, that it’s our role to connect all of these different concepts in a coherent way, a way that makes sense, because if we can do that, then the students are going to be much more likely to be able to apply all of that information later on. And that’s what we’re aiming for, right? We don’t want them just learning separated facts. We want them to learn how to connect them. We want them to already be connected in the brains of our students so that when they run across one or the other again, they’re going to know that they need to pull that information out. And also here’s all these other connected bits of information and we can evaluate and see, well, how do they fit into the story?

Kevin Patton (16:35):
And so, in a way, we’re training our students to build stories. It’s this huge, complicated, epic story that we’re building in their brain. Just one little story or scene at a time. So, yeah, maybe I’m going to make a T-shirt that says that, that I want to be the hippocampus for my students, for my course.

Sponsored by HAPI

Kevin Patton (17:03):
The free distribution of this podcast is sponsored by the Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction. The HAPI degree, from Northeast College of Health Sciences. The MSHAPI credential reflects substantial training and experience and teaching A&P. It’s something you want for yourself and something you’ll look for in candidates wanting to join your department, check out this online graduate program at northeastcollege.edu/hapi. That’s H-A-P-I or click the link in the show notes or episode page.

Turn My Gray Hair Brown

Kevin Patton (17:46):
Way back in episode 63, I said that the leading cause of premature graying of hair in humans is teaching A&P. I think I did say that actually, but if I did, I meant it in a joking way as I do now because, well, I don’t know. I mean, I guess it could be because there is evidence and that’s what I was talking about. Isn’t another bit of evidence that we discovered at that time in terms of how stress does affect how the stress of the fight-or-flight response really can turn hair white. And we know that mixing white hairs in with whatever our natural hair color is for me, it’s a dark brown. Most people would say when I was younger that my hair was black and I’d still do have a bunch of black or dark brown hairs, but half them to overcome the white hairs. So most people think of me as being gray haired or depending on the angle, because it’s a patchwork it’s in different areas. You might consider my hair to be completely white.

Kevin Patton (18:53):
But the point is, is that yeah, stress is a factor and we’re working out the mechanism of how that works, how hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves can drive the depletion of melanocyte stem cells. And so we’re working out those mechanisms and that’s teaching us more about how the skin works. It might lead to how we evaluate or assess or stage or treat melanoma or all who knows all kinds of things, you never know where a scientific discovery is going to lead us. So that was back in episode 63. Well, the reason I’m bringing it up now is that there’s additional new research that shows that at least for some people, and this crosses whether you’re a typical male or typical female, it crosses over whether you’re a younger adult or older adult, crosses over any kind of ethnic background or anything like that.

Kevin Patton (19:58):
It says it’s a relatively small group, so there’s a lot more research to go, but it was a somewhat varied group. It was mostly white individuals, but there was some variation in there. And they found that some people can reverse from gray back to their natural color. And when they start looking more closely at it, they did discover a link between stress and whether you can turn your hair, like you’re doing it intentionally, but whether your hair turns back to its natural color, or at least some of your hairs turn back to a natural color.

Kevin Patton (20:34):
And what I mean by that is they found, and it was pretty interesting research that they did. And I’m as always have a link in the show notes to that research. So you can read through it. They found that with these people, they could track back in time, because with your hair, you can figure out when different parts of the shaft of a hair may have been first formed in the hair follicle. So they did some mapping out time-wise and then interviewed these people. And sure enough, a lot of the people that exhibited this characteristic or this event, when their hair started to turn back to its natural color, that started happening when they were on a two week vacation. I can guarantee you, they didn’t find it happening during, in service before the beginning of a new semester. I don’t know if they asked that question, but I’m just guessing this is my hypothesis.

Kevin Patton (21:32):
Anyway, interesting thing about how the graying of hair works. And I do fairly regularly get questions from students. And when we start talking about gray hair and all that, because this is early in the A&P course, usually when I teach the skin and hair and nails and all that stuff. And so students are becoming more and more intrigued with that story of the human body. And so they’re asking questions like that, Does your hair really continue to grow after you die? Distress really caused gray hair. Is it possible for gray hair to turn back into it’s natural color without some artificial means?” So if you ever get a question along those lines, you can say, “Yeah, that does happen in some people sometimes. And it has to do with reducing stress.” So let’s all stop and take a deep breath or two let’s breathe in and breathe out slowly and let’s reduce our stress in A&P so that is less likely to cause graying of hairs. Not that that’s bad, I love having gray hairs.

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton (22:39):
Marketing support for this podcast is provided by HAPS, the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, promoting excellence in the teaching of human anatomy and physiology for over 30 years. I recently participated in this September virtual meeting and I got to say it was awesome. Hey, there’s another one coming up in November and you certainly don’t want to miss that one to find out more, go visit HAPS at theAPprofessor.org/haps. That’s H-A-P-S.

Online Testing: Effectiveness Data

Kevin Patton (23:18):
Can you believe it? It’s another segment about that darn wacky testing scheme that I have over the last several episodes. I think it started in episode 99, continued episode 100, then 101. Now we’re on episode 102, and I’m still talking about it. Of course you can believe it if you’re a longtime listener. Because that’s how I roll, right?

Kevin Patton (23:42):
But if you’re a new listener, this might be like, “Is this all he ever talks about?” And… the answer is no, but lately, I mean, once I get on a roll and people start asking questions and there’s some engagement going on and some debate going on, well, yeah, that’s a time to capture that. And while we’re all have it fresh in our memories and I have all these questions out there that we’re aware of. So if this is your first episode listening, or even your second episode, it might not be a bad idea to roll back to episode 99 and listen to at least those parts of those segments in each episode that discussed this and then come back to this segment and see what in the world it is I’m talking about. It’ll make perfect sense if you don’t do that. I’m just saying it’s an option.

Kevin Patton (24:32):
Okay. So what happened here? So over the time span, since I recorded the last episode, I gave a presentation at one of the virtual HAPS meetings and it was called connecting concepts in human science, helping learners grow from familiarity to proficiency. And that subtitle actually is a good example of something else I talked about in this episode that is being sensitive about terminology because when I first wrote up my abstract and title and so on and put that in HAPS, the subtitle was helping learners grow from mastery to no way man, from, ooh, gosh, what did I say? I don’t know. Helping learners grow from… I can’t even say it now. And as many times as I practice that presentation, I can’t even say the full title of it.

Kevin Patton (25:33):
So the subtitle was helping learners grow from familiarity to proficiency. The original one was helping learners grow from familiarity to mastery. And in a previous segment in this episode, I talked about some of the problems with using the term mastery. So here’s an example of me applying that principle. And only recently, I didn’t think about it bothering anybody before. And now I fixed that. And so hopefully other things about that presentation probably bothered people, but not that in that way, I hope. But even so, whereas I was going through, I had nine strategies for helping students connect to concepts in their head, like the hippocampus does. So when I was going through those and every once I would say, now here’s something, I talk about a lot on my podcast. And then I would mention whatever strategy it was.

Kevin Patton (26:38):
And so one of the listeners Gilbert Pitts, he came back to me with some questions because he said, “That got me thinking about this.” And so I went back and listened to the last few episodes that you talked about this wacky scheme of testing. That wasn’t his words. Those are my words. And specifically he was asking me a very good question that I’ve not addressed yet and has not been asked of me yet, at least not in this thread of conversation that we’ve been having recently. And that is what kind of numbers do you have on that? I mean, how do you know that the students are doing better? Because I’ve mentioned that a few times, I’ve said the students are doing better now. So that’s why I believe it works. That’s why he believe in it. That’s why I’m talking about it and sharing these ideas because I think they’re good, I think they work.

Kevin Patton (27:34):
But we’re scientists and we want to measure things and we want to see is that, you have a lot of bias there I detect and I mean, I’m just saying this to myself. I know I have bias because it worked, but how do I know it worked? Well, okay. Here’s the story. I mean, I started doing this over 20 years ago and even now, I mean, not just back then, but even now I am not a researcher. I mean, I did do research way, way long ago with bird physiology and that I never really did any serious scholarship of teaching and learning, cognitive science scholarship. That’s something that is only recently blossomed. Historically speaking, only recently blossomed with him teaching A&P. And so, yeah, that’s just never been one of the hats I wear. I have too many hats as it is. I wish I had time to do that is very intriguing to me, but I didn’t;

Kevin Patton (28:37):
But I did look at numbers. I think we should all look at numbers in our courses and so on. What is the trend of grades, for example, what’s the trend of test scores? If we’re not watching that then, well, how do we know whether anything’s working? How do we know when problems exist? And more and more of the learning management systems are giving us some very rich tools that we’re usually too busy, take the time to learn, but anytime you have some time to learn that or any opportunity to attend a workshop or whatever for how to dive in the stats and your learning management system? And how to make sense of them? And what strategies to use when you find a problem? And even just diagnosing what the problem is.

Kevin Patton (29:21):
I would encourage us all to do that, but I’m just saying that really wasn’t available to me back then, at least not at the level it was. And back then, I was just learning how to use learning management systems period. So I was lucky to get my course out the door online, I should say. Because yeah, it’s just where I was. But I was really intrigued by this and I was invited to speak at a conference back in 2002. It was the 16th International Conference of the IFAA, that’s the International Federation of Associations of Anatomy. And that happened to be in Kyoto, Japan in 2002. And I was invited to speak within a section, there was all about teaching co-medical anatomy. And what they mean by co-medical anatomy. Apparently this is a pretty common term in Japan, probably in the Japanese language, not English, but translated co-medical anatomy is referring to things that are not medical school anatomy, which is exactly what I do.

Kevin Patton (30:27):
I have taught medical students, but what I’m mostly teaching are undergraduates. These are students who are going into things that are not medical doctors, but they’re going to be nurses or they’re going to be physical therapists or occupational therapists, or they’re going to be health information professionals or, oh, just, there’s a whole basket full of different kinds of health careers and so on. So we would probably say allied health anatomy or something like that. I don’t know. But anyway, so that was the section I was invited in. And in talking back and forth with them, I proposed the idea of talking about something that was relatively new to me back then. And that was this scheme of online testing and using formative testing is a way of teaching, a way of learning for my students. That was a departure from the way I had been doing it in the way most of us do it and have been doing it even then.

Kevin Patton (31:25):
So I did that and I presented some data. But I can’t say it was very thoroughly tested statistically. So I have to get …, er, throw that caveat out that I could have done much better. I wish I had done much better looking back on it now, but I didn’t. So this is what I have and I still have a lot of the data. So someday, oh, someday when I get extra time to do stuff, that’s on my list and I have a growing list, then maybe I’ll go back and do some of that. Or if one of you wants to take that information and are maybe saw several of you want to take that information and go back and muddle your way through it and see if there’s something you can get out of it, or maybe you want to retest my hypothesis in your own scenario. That would be great.

Kevin Patton (32:14):
But anyway, it was published in the Anatomical Science International number 79 on page 188, and this is all in the show notes in episode page you don’t need to write it down if you really do want to go and look at it. And it was a special edition. It was a supplemental edition that I’ve never really been able to find anywhere else. I mean, I have a copy of it, but I think it was just people who attended who would later send the copy of it. I don’t know, as the proceedings of this international congress of associations of anatomy. And the only thing that was published was the abstract. It really didn’t give any of this data, but I do have the abstract. I have a place where you can go and read the abstract online, and that’s linked in the show notes and episode page. And I also have a link to a seminar that I did, that very seminar that I presented back then, except I rerecorded it a few years ago to update it, to add some things at the ends that, oh, well, since that time I’ve done this and this and this, but the statistics part of it is still the same.

Kevin Patton (33:22):
So you can go back and either listen to the seminar or just look at the handout because every slide is printed in the handout at a large enough size that you can actually read each slide and read the numbers on it. And so you can see what these numbers are. So don’t worry about getting the numbers done. I’m really going to speak to that just in generalities anyway. So you can go back and look at any of that stuff. And there’s been plenty of research to show that any of the things I do in terms of this wacky scheme of testing, there’s all kinds of research out there in cognitive science that support the idea of it. They’re just not testing my students to see how it was working in my course.

Kevin Patton (34:06):
So what I’m going to talk about now is my statistics, is under analyzed I should say, as they are. So in my presentation, I looked at the course average, the numbers. I looked at the final exam scores, and then I looked at the number of students because I think it’s important in science experiments that you want to get a large number of students, if you can, because then that’s going to give you more reliable information I think. So I was comparing the old way of doing things that is giving paper tests and paper exams, traditional way, in class. And so I labeled those the old way group and I really would be the control group. And then I had two separate groups of students who had taken A&P one using what I called the new way. That would be the experimental group. And so I had two and two in the control group, the old way group, those two groups, one of them had 159 students, another one had 197 students. So about 250 students, I guess, No, 350 students.

Kevin Patton (35:21):
So that’s a pretty big number, I think. And then in the experimental group, the new way group, remember there were two subgroups of each. So one sub-group I had 210 students in the other one, I had 209. So that’s what about 420 students. So I had a pretty large group in both and they were similar sized groups, not exactly the same, but similar sized groups. And then when I looked at the course average, using my old system, the classic system of testing in those two subgroups, the course average was 70 in one group, and 74 in another group. And that’s somewhat of a gap that maybe bears looking into to see, well, why did one group do so much better than the other group? Now that second group, was taught a year later than the first group.

Kevin Patton (36:13):
And I’m always tweaking my course. So maybe one or more of the tweaks that I did, had something to do with that cap. I also like to believe, and this may or may not be true, but in my world, it’s true is that I get better as I go on because I really work at it. And I really think I’m getting to be a better teacher, the more I teach. And so maybe I just did a better job that year. And I mean, it could have been characteristics of that cohort of students, I don’t know. But that’s what I had 70 and 74. So now how did that compare to the two groups that I looked at once I started doing this online testing? And to clarify from previous episodes, this was A&P 1. So I have nine online tests and two traditional exams, a midterm exam, and a final exam. Those were face-to-face setting paper exams. They were not open book. They could bring a little card. I think I was doing that at that time. I have to go back through my notes and see, but they could bring a little card that had things written down on it.

Kevin Patton (37:17):
But as I’ve mentioned before, the students who bothered to make a card and some of them didn’t, they ended up not ever using them because the process of making the card to help them review the stuff enough. And I think all those online tests they did help them review. They were really were pretty much prepared. They didn’t really have to do a lot of cramming to do well on the exam. And so you’re saying just spit it out. What were the results? So remember the old result, the old way, see how I’m building tension here, building anticipation, the old way remember this oh, wait a minute. I didn’t even tell you the old way. Okay. So the old way, when I did the final exam, the average score was 46 in one subgroup and 51 in the other subgroup, not too great. And luckily those students had other grades that they could use to bring up their test grade a situation I’m going to talk a lot more about in the next step episode, because I don’t think that’s necessarily ideal for us to be doing that, but that’s the way I did it.

Kevin Patton (38:20):
I think that’s why a lot of us do that is just average everything together. And yeah, you do some bad on some things you do really good on other things that all averages out and hopefully you pass. Maybe pass with that B that you need to get into your program. So anyway, so 46 and 51, that was what I was seeing in those previous groups of students. What about once I switched to the new way? When I got to the final exam, and I remember this was still the same kind of exam. It was still the traditional paper test. It’s not open book. And so what was the scores? It wasn’t 46 and 51 like I saw before it was 67 and 67. There were both, the averages were the same for that. So that’s a pretty big jump it’s, between 15, 20 or more points in the score.

Kevin Patton (39:16):
And so, yeah, I didn’t do any statistical tests on it, but I’m not sure I have to do. I don’t know. Maybe I do you tell me, but to me that satisfied me to assure me that I was on the right track, that this really was working. And of course, year by year after that, I would check on that to make sure there was no big dip back to where it had been for a while before I start doing this scheme. And of course, every time I add added, that’s just, again, the way I do things and then I started doing cumulative testing, and then I start doing pre-testing and I think each one of those for similar reasons, because I looked at the grades and that seemed out and I talked to students and speaking of talking to students, I have some stats on that too, that was presented in Kyoto way back in 2002.

Kevin Patton (40:09):
And I’m just trying to find it in my notes here. I’m actually on that page and scrolling through those stats slides here. Okay. So let me get to these graphs here. I surveyed the students each of those years and I would often give students a survey of various things in the course because the surveys that my college gives, they’re pretty much useless to me. They don’t really answer the kinds of questions I want an answer to. I don’t want to know if they think I’m competent in my subject to they’re not in a position to judge how competent I am in my subject, or even how organized I am. I mean, I can copy somebody’s nice syllabus and they think I’m organized and maybe I’m not. So none of that stuff matters to me. I have my own questions.

Kevin Patton (41:01):
So of course, during these times I ask the students that had been doing it this new way, “Do these online tests make you better prepared for the exams?” Now, remember back in 2002, students were not taking a lot, if any online exams in other courses either while they were taking A&P or before they took A&P. That was an relatively new phenomenon to them. And so I asked them, “Do online tests make you better prepared for the exams?” Now, of course, that’s subjective. Now some students are going to think of it objectively and their answer’s probably going to be more reliable and more useful, but I’m going to have to count on the fact that nobody’s doing that, that this is just their gut feeling, is their gut feeling that they’re better prepared. And so out of 170 students that I asked, no, 171 students that I asked that question, 170 of them felt better prepared.

Kevin Patton (42:02):
One student didn’t feel that they were better prepared. And of course it was probably, and I’m being biased here I know, and I’m being bad, but it’s that one student who walked into the course, absolutely certain that they knew more than me or anyone else about A&P. So no, the online test didn’t help them because they already know everything. So then I asked them, “Do the online tests help you learn the concepts of the course better?” Out of that same group of students, 155 of them said yes, that online tests do help them learn the concepts of the course better, and 16 students said that the online test did not help them learn the concepts of the course better. Which makes me wonder why this sounds a little bit, like they’re saying something different than they did in the previous question, but these are the results I got. I didn’t fudge anything. So a little over 90% said, yeah, it helped them learn the concepts of the course. And almost 10% said, no, not so much.

Kevin Patton (43:11):
Another question I asked them because I suspected this might be true, even though it was only we divide our course into lab sections and lecture sections, and they’re taught separately sometimes by different instructors. And so the question here is, “Do online tests, help you prepare for the practical exams in lab?” So I’m asking, “Do these lecture tests I’m giving you, do they make you do better? Or do they help you do better in your lab course?” Which at that time, at least was based almost entirely the lab grade, almost entirely on their practical exams. And so what was the result? Well, 89.5% of them said, yes, it does help them in lab.

Kevin Patton (44:03):
About 10% said, no. It’s almost the same breakdown as we saw in the previous question. 153 said, yes, 18 students said no. And it could, I don’t know. I mean, I’m just making stuff up here, but it could be that some of those students who said no, just weren’t clearly seeing the connection between what we were doing in lecture and what we were doing in lab, or are just in their minds it was so compartmentalized that they just felt like that was the best answer for them. And of course, when you’re doing a survey, especially a student at the end of the semester, and they’re not going to really take time and be 100% into it, the way we’d like them to be. Then I asked a bunch of other questions, like, “What resources do you use while taking the test? 164 of them said that they use the textbook when they’re taking the online test. Seven said, no, they don’t.

Kevin Patton (45:01):
I provide skeleton outlines for my students. Where it’s just maps the skeleton of what we do. And then many of the students actually take notes as they’re studying, or as they’re in a lecture or doing other activities, they take notes on that and fill it in. But I do the skeleton outline so that it builds a conceptual framework. They know the order of the story that I’m telling. And so did they use their outlines? 170 of them said yes. And only one said no. And do they use additional notes that they’ve taken because some students take notes besides on the outline, some of them don’t even do it on the outline. So 142 said, yeah, they did that 28 said no, they don’t.

Kevin Patton (45:45):
And then I asked what about the previous attempts? “Did you look at copies of the previous attempts that you took as you took an online test?” And 155 of them said yes. And only 16 said no. Well, I hope that most of them do because they can go back and say, “Well, I had a question like this on a previous attempt, what did I answer for that? And was it right or wrong?” So yeah, they’re going to go back, not for every question and compare it because that just takes too long and we know students are going to say, “Oh, I want to take as much time as I can to get this required activity done.” No, they’re going to try and take shortcuts. So they’re gonna go back and look at those previous attempts when they have to. And when they do, they’re almost certainly not going to see the same question, but they might see a question that’s similar or the they’re certainly going to see a question that’s asking about the same group of concepts or subgroup of concepts and so on.

Kevin Patton (46:42):
Another question I asked that I thought had some interesting results. It is, “Do online tests have a high level of difficulty?” Because something I heard from students that were coming into my course and also from colleagues, overheard in the hallway is that, “Oh my gosh, he gives open online tests. That’s too easy. He just letting them fly by where the rigor?” And of course that’s not what the students were saying.

Kevin Patton (47:10):
So other faculty were at least implying and what the students were saying when they came in is, “Yeah, I heard this test is easy, you have mostly online tests and so in their open book.” But I mean that’s right. Typical student perspective. That’s all they see is like, “Oh, it’s open book. I can just look up the answers.” But then once they get the test, they say, “Well, where would I find that answer? That’s not in the book. I mean, the information needed to answer it’s in the book, but I have to put it together. This is a mystery, this is a puzzle. This is something like on Dateline. I have to find the evidence and think it through. And what’s most logical and how do I apply it here?”

Kevin Patton (47:52):
And so when I asked them, “Do online tests have a high level of difficulty?” 62%. So over half, not quite two thirds said, yes, they have a high level of difficulty. About 38% said, no, they didn’t have a high level of difficulty. I don’t know. I guess that’s not too unexpected. I thought it would be a little more skewed that more of them would’ve labeled them as difficult. But remember this is at the end of the semester where they’ve really gotten the hang these online tests. So maybe they knew how to do it. They knew they built up some skills and yeah, no, it’s not hard now, it’s like asking someone at the end of four years of studying French, “Is French hard to learn?” “Nah, it’s easy.” Well, yeah, if you’re at the end of your four years of learning how to speak French, I guess you would say that wouldn’t you? And maybe not. But you’d be more likely to say that.

Kevin Patton (48:47):
So I don’t know that could have something to do with it, but again, that’s probably my bias bubbling up saying, well, why did so many of them say it wasn’t very difficult when so many said it was? So almost two thirds of them said it was. I mean, there’s some numbers that counter my natural inclination when I first start thinking about doing this thing is wouldn’t that be too easy? I mean, how is that going to help anybody for anything by just throwing it all out there and letting them look up the answers? That’s not going to do any good. But they were challenged by it, significantly challenged by the online tests.

Kevin Patton (49:25):
So those are some of the stats. And like I say, you can go through that in maybe a little more coherent way if you go to that seminar. And in order to do that you can use this URL, just go to theAPprofessor.org/testingisteaching, all one word, all lowercase, theAPprofessor.org/testingisteaching. But you know that I have links, always, in the show notes at the episode page. For any of these segments if you want to learn more about it. Gilbert already knows those answers because I got back to him, but I really appreciate Gilbert Pitts coming to me with the those questions because I think it’s one that needs to be answered. And that’s the answer I have.

Staying Connected

Kevin Patton (50:16):
It helps all of us when you share episodes that intrigue you or enlighten you or I don’t know, make you mad as heck. Sharing episodes is easy to do. Just go to theAPprofessor.org/refer to get a personalized share link. That will not only get your friend all set up with this episode. It’ll also get you on your way to earning a cash reward. If you don’t see links in your podcast player, go to the show notes at the episode page at theAPprofessor.org. And while you’re there, you can claim your digital credential for listening to this episode. And you’re always encouraged to call in with your questions and comments and ideas, at the podcast hotline that’s 1-833-LION-DEN or 1-833-546-6336. Or send a recording, a written message to podcast@theAPprofessor.org. I’ll see you down the road.

Aileen (51:29):
The A&P Professor is hosted by Dr. Kevin Patton, an award-winning professor and textbook author in human anatomy & physiology.

Kevin Patton (51:41):
Please do not feed the animals. They are fed a natural, healthy diet that does not include your French fries.

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