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Star Power Helps Students Identify Learning Goals | TAPP 98

by Kevin Patton

Star Power Helps Students Identify Learning Goals

TAPP Radio Episode 98


Episode | Quick Take

Students often ignore published learning objectives, but we often use subtle clues to help them understand what they need to know. In this episode, Kevin Patton discusses how to be less subtle about that, while also teaching our students how to spot important clues. That elephant in the room? It’s the textbook. Cilia are amazing and vital. In COVID-19, we see how cilia damage can kill us. Did you know that cells make soap? Listen and learn why.

  • 00:00 | Introduction
  • 00:54 | The Appearing Elephant Trick
  • 06:05 | Sponsored by AAA
  • 07:26 | COVID-19 and Cilia Damage
  • 10:54 | Soapy Cell Defense
  • 15:04 | Sponsored by HAPI
  • 16:35 | The Star Story
  • 29:59 | Sponsored by HAPS
  • 31:05 | Helping Students Identify Learning Goals
  • 40:43 | Staying Connected


Episode | Listen Now

Episode | Show Notes

As I stared at the stars, I realized that there were always this many of them. It was only when the other lights were removed that I could see what had been there all along. (Morgan Matson)


The Appearing Elephant Trick

5 minutes

What does the incredible Appearing Elephant illusion have to do with teaching and learning anatomy & physiology? That mystery is revealed in this segment—in more ways than one!

image of elephant with caption: textbook, the elephantin the room


Sponsored by AAA

1.5 minute

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


COVID-19 and Cilia Damage

3.5 minutes

We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus potentially wreaks all kinds of havoc in the infected human body. Here’s one viral effect that may help students better understand the vital role of cilia.

  • SARS-CoV-2 infection induces the dedifferentiation of multiciliated cells and impairs mucociliary clearance (journal article in Nature Communications; has some cool images you have permission to use in your course; also two AWESOME videos demonstrating movement of mucus blanket by cilia) my-ap.us/3jaVeyv
  • The coronavirus cuts cells’ hairlike cilia, which may help it invade the lungs | Trimming the structures prevents mucus from moving the invaders out toward the throat (summary of the discover in Science News) my-ap.us/3zG9B4j
  • Lung cell images show how intense a coronavirus infection can be | Microscopic views reveal virus particles coating the hairlike cilia of an airway cell (a related article in Science News)my-ap.us/3BLlQON
  • Cilia image adapted from my-ap.us/3ryRCtD

micrograph of cilia with caption: what happens when a virus damages lung cilia?


Soapy Cell Defense

4 minutes

When we think of immune defense, we often first think of professional immune cells like macrophages and lymphocytes. But each cell has it’s own defenses, too—for example, interferon. But did you know that soap is another of those cell defenses? Listen and find out how that works.

  • APOL2 (apolipoprotein L2 details; for the biochem enthusiasts) my-ap.us/2WDRkXb
  • A human apolipoprotein L with detergent-like activity kills intracellular pathogens (journal article from Science) my-ap.us/3BNy21C
  • Human cells make a soaplike substance that busts up bacteria | A surprising cellular defensive strategy could inspire new antibiotics (summary of the discovery from Science News) my-ap.us/3zJvNdW

image of bars of soap with caption: our cells make soap? but, um, why?


Sponsored by HAPI Online Graduate Program

1.5 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


The Star Story

13.5 minutes

Kevin goes back in time to tell a story of his freshman year at the university, when an incident in a chemistry class altered his life forever. Yes, that’s when he became a superhero. Just checking to see if anybody actually reads these notes that I spend so much time on. No time travel or superheroes, but indeed a story of a freshman chem course and a teaching and learning method that Kevin still uses.

image of stars with caption "star power"


Sponsored by HAPS

1 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


Helping Students Identify Learning Goals

9.5 minutes

In this segment we learn why Kevin told us that weird story about chemistry, Dr. Malone, and stars. It turns out, there’s a strategy for teaching, learning, and notetaking that we and our students can use.

  • Star Power (and other stories written for A&P students; feel free to link to them in your course so your students can use them) my-ap.us/StudentStar

image of stars and caption: helping students identify learning goals

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!


Kevin Patton (00:01):
In one of her novels, Morgan Matson, wrote this line. “As I stared at the stars, I realized that there were always this many of them, it was only when the other lights were removed, that I could see what had been there all along.”

Aileen (00:22):
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 (00:34):
Learn about a way to help students identify learning goals. Discover the secret of the appearing elephant trick, learn how cilia are involved in COVID-19, and how soap can act as a cell defense strategy.

The Appearing Elephant Trick

Kevin Patton (00:54):
Not long ago in episodes 94 and 97 specifically, I had been talking about textbooks, and how invisible they are sometimes until we bring them out into the light of day and really talk to students about them being transparent about it, so that the textbook isn’t invisible.

Kevin Patton (01:16):
And I was just recently talking to a good friend of mine who is also a wild animal trainer. And we were swapping stories about working with performing elephants. And both of us had at one time or another work with an elephant that had appeared in an illusion act, usually in a TV special or something, because most illusionists don’t travel around with an elephant, because it’s, well, that’s just a lot of trouble for one trick to make it appear or disappear…

Read More

Kevin Patton (01:47):
But one illusionist, the late Harry Blackstone Jr, was actually very famous for a traveling stage act where he brought his own elephant with him and made it appear in the middle of the stage. And it was amazing. I saw it live. And you know what, it took me forever to figure out how he did it, until I realized that it was an adaptation of a classic method of making the elephant appear. And that is you put it there to begin with. It’s there before anybody else is there, before the illusionist walks onto the stage or walks into, I don’t know, the middle of a big parking lot.

Kevin Patton (02:36):
As a matter of fact, I have a link to a video that shows how this trick is done on a parking lot. And basically what they do is they put the elephant way back in the corner of the parking lot in a little planted area where there are a couple of trees, and we should see those little islands of trees that are in parking lots all the time, right?

Kevin Patton (03:00):
And so they had one like this and they just put a big piece of plywood, basically in between two of those trees and painted in some more trees. And they put the elephant behind that. So from a distance, if you’re standing in the middle of the parking lot, which is where the illusionist stand, the camera was, and you look back at those trees, it just looks like a bunch of trees, and who really stares at tree for a long time if there’s a whole bunch of other stuff going around, and you know that an elephant is going to appear at any moment.

Kevin Patton (03:34):
And so what happens is, is they put up a big cover and the elephant walks with the hands handler, walks toward that big cover and comes in from back, and then suddenly the cover is dropped and there’s the elephant in the middle of the parking lot.

Kevin Patton (03:52):
And it is pretty amazing when you see it. And like I say, I saw a very similar illusion using the same method onstage with Harry Blackstone Jr. show where the elephant was actually hidden at the back of the stage. All kinds of other things were going on, all kinds of tricks. It was in a part of the show where he was just doing one magic trick after another. And so you were looking here and just, wow, how did he do that? And then he’d walk quickly to the other side. And wow, how did you do that? And the whole time, music was playing and assistants were walking back and forth, and some of them were carrying big props and so on. And then all of a sudden this would appear and that would appear. And then before you knew it, all of a sudden, he’s standing next to a huge elephant near the front of the stage and mind blown, right?

Kevin Patton (04:43):
But bringing it back to the textbook, that’s kind of what’s going on in our courses, isn’t it? There’s all of these bells and whistles and so on. And there’s all these online resources, and there’s all these nifty activities we do in class, and there’s these wonderful lectures or pre lectures or online videos or whatever that we’re doing. And there’s all these things going on and nobody’s paying attention to the elephant. That’s kind of the whole point in an illusion act, you don’t want anybody paying attention to the elephant, but it’s there. And if you look really good closely, you might be able to figure out there could be an elephant there. That’s an elephant sized space there. But you don’t, because you’re so enthralled with all these other things going on.

Kevin Patton (05:28):
And so what we need to do is what Harry Blackstone Jr did. And that is bring that elephant out into the light. Bring it forward and for a moment, at least stop all the other stuff going on so that you can focus on that elephant and see, this is a big important thing. This is an elephant. This is huge. Just like the textbook, it should be a huge part of our course if we use it properly. So you might want to go back and review episode 94 and 97.

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton (06:05):
A searchable transcript, and a captioned audiogram of this episode are funded by AAA, the American Association for Anatomy. If you’re not very familiar with AAA, you may not realize that they changed their name not long ago. They, or I should say we, because I’m a long time member too, were once called the American Association of Anatomists. Well, that’s a fine name, but a lot of us felt that it didn’t really reflect the broad and welcoming umbrella the AAA is.

Kevin Patton (06:40):
It isn’t just for those who fit the classic description of an anatomist bent over their dissection project. It also includes, well, pretty much anyone interested in anatomy. If you’re teaching anatomy, or you’re teaching anatomy and physiology, then really you’re an anatomist too. And let me tell you, there are a lot of this A&P faculty in AAA. And there’s a large boatload of resources and opportunities in AAA for A&P faculty. Want to know more? Check out anatomy.org.

COVID-19 and Cilia Damage

Kevin Patton (07:26):
A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a story that was first published in Nature Communications, in mid July of 2021. And it talked about one of the many effects that we see in COVID-19, which is caused by a viral infection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. And this particular mechanism of the disease involves destroying or damaging cilia that line our respiratory tract. And we know and teach in our A&P course that the cilia are constantly moving the mucus toward the throat.

Kevin Patton (08:09):
So that mucus, which collects things, including all kinds of little particles and even microbes that have been breathed in, and that includes viruses and bacteria and fungal spores and different things like that, it sticks to the mucus and then the cilia beaten, beaten, beaten, they have these wave-like motions that keeps sort of a constant flow up toward the throat where we can then swallow it. And it goes down into our stomachs and some of our defense mechanisms, they’re not the least of which are the acids and enzymes in the stomach, they can render those things less harmful to us.

Kevin Patton (08:55):
So we see in COVID-19 that when the virus gets there, it can cause the cilia to, well, they describe it basically as kind of being mowed down, like you’re mowing the lawn, so that they’re just little stubs now. And then they did some research on lab grown human cells that mimic the lining of the respiratory tract, and they infected them with the Corona virus, and they could study it a little bit more. And they did some tests. They put the little beads on them, and it’d be fun to watch. Actually, there’s a video that you can get of it. And I’ll have a link to that in the show notes at the episode page.

Kevin Patton (09:32):
And you can see that the little beads they put on there don’t move. They’re supposed to be moving, but they don’t move. Which demonstrates that not only have the cilia been mowed down, they’re not really pushing that blanket of mucus up toward the throat the way they’re supposed to be. And apparently this is worse in people who get severe COVID-19. And we know there’s a range of severity. We know some people get an asymptomatic case, some people get a mildly asymptomatic case. And some people end up in the hospital. Some people end up not coming home from the hospital, unfortunately.

Kevin Patton (10:10):
So we can see this wide distribution of effects, and maybe some of that has to do with variations of effect in the cilia. And I’m sure it’s much more than that, but this is an important piece of the puzzle. And it gets right to the heart of one of the core ideas, the core concepts of human anatomy & physiology. And that is the presence of cilia, and the job that cilia play in several different parts of our body, and how important that is. So we can take something that’s on people’s mind right now, and use that to engage them in this core concept that they need to know for other reasons as well.

Soapy Cell Defense

Kevin Patton (10:55):
A recent paper in the journal science really has me intrigued. It has me intrigued for a couple of reasons. One is, it’s just interesting, the way science works. I’m always fascinated how when things don’t go quite as expected, it can turn into a big and maybe important scientific discovery. And the other thing that intrigues me about it is, well, just what they found and how it works.

Kevin Patton (11:19):
And that relates to this idea in immunology, that all cells have some immune capabilities. I mean, this is a very primitive thing, probably the original cells from which we have evolved over time, at least, built up some defensive mechanisms. Now later on, when you get to a complex multicellular organism, like the human body, now we see some professional cells whose lives are dedicated to immune defenses. Those cells that we sometimes talk about in A&P, whose main function is to be defensive.

Kevin Patton (11:58):
And we sometimes, in zeroing in on them, lose sight of the fact that every single cell can defend itself at least in some ways. We might mention the interferon process, for example. We know that in fact, the cells can send signals to nearby cells to warn them that they’ve been infected, and that can trigger those nearby cells to activate their defenses. And maybe they can resist at least at some level resist infection by the microbe that was hitting out or infecting that original cell that released the interferon. And it was actually that mechanism that some scientists were looking at trying to figure out the details of what goes on in the many varieties of interferon processes that might be occurring in the human body.

Kevin Patton (12:48):
So they were looking at epithelial cells, and they were scanning across some genes that they thought were producing proteins involved in this interferon process. And when they did that, they ran across a gene for a protein called APOL3. And it turns out that APOL3 acts as a detergent, it is like soap. It can dissolve lipids and lipid films. And we know where to find lipid films in bodies, don’t we? Yes. We know that they’re forming cell membranes.

Kevin Patton (13:25):
Well, you know what? There’s a layer of the Salmonella bacterium, which is what they were using in these experiments, that is a lipid membrane also. And so in conjunction with this other protein that they were looking at, which sort of starts to poke little holes in the outer coat of the salmonella bacterium. That allows the APOL3 to get in there to the lipid membrane and dissolve it basically.

Kevin Patton (13:56):
And so it’s going to harm the Salmonella bacterium. It’s going to reduce its ability to invade the bacterial cell and cause it to just kind of start to fall apart. And we know that that’s a very useful mechanism in fighting microbes. So this is kind of an interesting story, not even in the context of immunology where it can certainly be used, but in other contexts as well, maybe when we’re first sort of reviewing the structure of a cell, we might be able to drop that in and say, “Hey, there was this recent research that was done. And how do you think a detergent that breaks a part lipid membranes might be a useful defense against other kinds of cells, even bacterial cells?”

Kevin Patton (14:43):
So there’s links in the show notes at the episode page where you can learn more about this story and about the fact that they were kind of looking for one thing and found something different. And that’s great because now this adds to our overall knowledge, and might have some therapeutic applications at some point.

Sponsored by HAPI

Kevin Patton (15:04):
As you might already know, the free distribution of this podcast is sponsored by Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction. The HAPI degree. I’m teaching the course right now on this program. It’s a really great cohort, which they always are. Even if the group vibe varies from one cohort to the next. But something that really struck me this time is how much constructive interaction there is among them. Even though, as always, they’re about as diverse a group as one could imagine. Some have never taught. Some are early in their teaching careers, and others have been teaching A&P a long time. And they all have something to give, and they all have something to take. They challenge each other constantly, and they support each other constantly.

Kevin Patton (16:02):
I’m so grateful that each cohort, including this one, have invited me into their full to participate fully in their ongoing giving intaking. Imagine yourself here. Check out this online graduate program from Northeast College of Health Sciences at nycc.edu/hapi, that’s H-A-P-I. Or click the link in the show notes or episode page.

The Star Story

Kevin Patton (16:35):
I want to tell you a little story. Way back in the olden days. It was my first semester as a freshman at the university. And me and a buddy of mine from high school were invited to participate in a one semester version of their chemistry course, which was normally two semesters. But this was a pilot program to see if by screening out students that already had done well in a high school chemistry course could do what they needed to do in one semester. And my high school teacher knew this university professor. And so I guess that’s how I got in, I guess that’s how I got invited.

Kevin Patton (17:25):
And boy that made me feel good. But on the other hand, being a freshmen at a well-regarded university, I was a little scared because even though I enjoyed chemistry in high school, and I did do well in it, I also knew that, well, it’s not easy. And so yeah, I could do well in a high school course, but how is that going to do in this course, especially if it’s accelerated, and it’s for smart chemistry students, that was not a label I saw myself wearing very easily.

Kevin Patton (17:57):
So we went in there and, Dr. Malone, Leo J. Malone, was our professor. And he walked in, was very welcoming, and made us feel good about the fact that we were in this class and shared his excitement over this educational experiment to see how it would go. And we got excited about that. But it did kind of crank up the pressure a little bit, at least for me that, oh my gosh, I better do well, because I don’t want to disappoint my professor who’s so excited about this experiment.

Kevin Patton (18:32):
And so he started teaching us some of the basics of chemistry, and I just thought to myself, this is not going to be that hard because he’s going over things that we spent a long time on in our high school course. And it turns out he was an excellent, excellent teacher, who not only lectured on the material and demonstrated how to solve problems, but he would bring a student or two up to the board, and remember this was the olden days. So these were actual chalk boards. I don’t even know if white boards had been invented then, that he’d have one or two of us come up to the chalkboard and do parts of the solution or maybe the whole thing and so on. And he made it fun and it was a small class, so there’s a lot of interaction between us, and you know what? I would feel so good about the fact that I kind of already knew all the stuff, that I just sort of sat back and didn’t really… I did take notes because, well, that’s how you get to be a good high school chemistry student, is you take notes.

Kevin Patton (19:40):
But when he gave us problems to solve at home or told us to start over again with these problems he gave us in the course, he said, write down on the problems and make sure that you write down the solution so that you can go back and practice them and start over and then you’ll have your solution there. And you can check your work. You can check to see if you got it right, if you remembered how to do it. And I felt so good about it. I didn’t really do that. I didn’t think I had to, because I thought this is all old news to me. I’d already done well before.

Kevin Patton (20:13):
So we get to our first test and, oh my gosh, there are probably sweat stains on my paper because it didn’t all come back to me as easily as I thought it would. That gap in between course I’m forgetting, that is the gap between high school and college. And I had done some forgetting, actually my high school course was in my junior year. So there was like a year and a half maybe, since my high school chemistry. And we all know that things like that, you do have to practice and you to relearn it again. And just sitting there watching other people work it out and only working a little bit out yourself when you get called to the board, that just isn’t enough. You really need to do the work at home.

Kevin Patton (20:59):
And so I knew that, oh my gosh, I’m going to get kicked out of his class. I’m going to disappoint him so much. And by then we liked him so much that we didn’t want to disappoint him. So I talk to my buddy from high school and couple of other people. And they were like, “Oh man, we got kind of blown away on that. It’s so surprising because those should have been easy problems. And yet we froze on the test.” So I thought, “Well, at least it’s not just me.” Right?

Kevin Patton (21:28):
So when he came back in during our next class with the graded tests, our very first test in this wonderful experimental class that he was so excited about, he did not look excited. We couldn’t tell, I couldn’t tell at least, is he really mad? Is he really sad? Is he going to start yelling, or the vein in his neck or his temples, are they bulging? Or is he going to start crying? What is going on? But we could tell that something was really bothering him.

Kevin Patton (22:00):
So he came in and he sort of dropped the stack of papers on his desk. And again, it was hard to tell, is he mad, and he was throwing them down? Or was he sad, and just have to exasperation letting them drop? Or what was going on? And so he just kind of looked at us. He just looked around at us, and we’re like, oh man, this is not a good sign. Because he normally came in full of life and with inviting remarks and so on, to get us all awake and excited and ready for the next class. But he was just looking around at us. And we’re trying to read his face, and at least I wasn’t totally able to do that, except that I knew something was a miss.

Kevin Patton (22:44):
And so he finally start talking. And he said, “This is not working.” Okay. Well that’s telling me much more in which direction is it going to go in here with this. So he said, “You all are the cream of the crop. You all are hand selected because you’re so good at chemistry. I know you can do chemistry. And I know you can do this chemistry, because this was all a review. All this stuff on the first test was a review of stuff you should have walked in here with. But I know that people forget things. So that’s why I was doing the review. But so many of you did badly on this task. Most of you did badly on this test.” The way I remember the story, there was only one guy, my buddy, Tim, who soon became part of our little study group in chemistry, I will tell you. And he apparently did okay. But the rest of us, no, not so much.

Kevin Patton (23:50):
And so he said, “Some of these problems that were on your test were the same problems that we did in class.” And then he stopped, had a dramatic pause. He’s a good storyteller. He had a dramatic pause, and he started, “I said the same problems, not problems like the ones we did in class, the very same problems were on your test. So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have been able to do those easily, because not only did we do them in class, but when we did them, I knew I was going to put these particular items on the test. And so I said, when you see this on the test, this is how you work it out.” Or, sometimes he would say, “When I put something like this on the test, how would you work it out?” And then he would say help him work it out, or even do it for the whole class.

Kevin Patton (24:56):
And, oh man, it’s just starting to sink in like, oh my gosh, I do remember him saying that. Then said, “Everybody, right now put your pencils down.” And he was being very stern. So we thought, “Okay, he’s not mad yet, but maybe he’s getting mad.” I don’t know. “Put your pencils down.” So we did. And he said, “Okay. If you don’t have your notebook out already, have it out.” And we all had our notebooks out, because we were the cream of the crop chemistry students from high school.

Kevin Patton (25:27):
So yeah, we had our notebooks out, and yeah, we had everything written down, and he said, “Okay.” He went to one person’s notebook and found one of the problems that was on the test that we had done in class. And he looked at it, and he said, “I don’t see anywhere here where it says that this is going to be on the test, but I told you it was going to be on the test.” He said, Not in so many words, but how else can I say it? When you see this on the test, that’s kinda telling you it’s really good chance, better than 50% chance that that is going to be on the test.

Kevin Patton (26:04):
And he said, “But there’s no marking here.” And he says, “Everybody open to this one. So we did, we found it, and I entered my notebook, but nope, I didn’t write on there something about it was going to be on the test, no little arrow or anything to tell me that. And he went from one to the other, he says, “You don’t have anything like that.” He said, “From now on, we’re all going to do it this way.” And he went to the front of the board, and he drew a star, five sided star pentagram, just your typical star, put it on the board and said, “Whenever I say something, even remotely, like if I do something like this on the test, here’s how you solve it. Then you better put a star in your notebook.”

Kevin Patton (26:41):
And he said, “We got to turn this around. This is going to work. I got to make sure this works. And the way we do that is by starring those things. And you need to do the practice. No matter if you feel confident or not, you know from your high school experience, that’s not how science works. You can’t just listen to the story and become familiar with it. You have to dive into it and really get ahold of that and make it part of what you know, by doing the practices that I assigned or that I recommend to you.”

Kevin Patton (27:14):
So we thought, phew, okay, he didn’t throw anything at us, he didn’t hit us or anything. Now, remember this was the olden days where college professors were not only allowed to hit you. They were encouraged to hit you. Okay. That’s an exaggeration. Maybe not, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but we were relieved that he wasn’t angry. He was just very disappointed.

Kevin Patton (27:37):
And so he said, “Okay, so let’s go, let’s turn this around.” So he started teaching some of the next concepts that were coming up that were going to be on the next test. And it was getting close to the end of class. And all of a sudden, he slams down the chalk on his board. Now I remembered this just slamming it down. He probably just deliberately put it there, but he turned around and he just looked at us with his hands on his hips, and just looked around, and we thought, man, he is really acting weird today. We thought he was back to his old self, but no, he’s not.

Kevin Patton (28:10):
And so he started looking around and he says, “Okay, put your pencils down again.” So we did. And he started looking around and he said, “I just said, when you have a problem like this one that’s right on the board right now that I just went through with you, when you see that on the test, here’s how you work it out. I said that. And what did I tell you to do class when I say that?” And somebody timidly said, it’s probably my buddy, Tim, who said, “You said to put a star there on our notebook.”

Kevin Patton (28:48):
And he said, “Tim, we’ll just pretend it was Tim. Tim, do you have a star in your notebook?” And he said, “No, sir.” And he looked around at our notebooks and he said, “I don’t see a star anywhere. There’s not a star here. There’s not a star there.” And of course he got to me, he said, “There’s not a star here.” And he says, “Everybody pick up your pencil right now and put a star there. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to put a star there.”

Kevin Patton (29:14):
And so from then on every once in a while, he would turn around and ask us, what do you have in your notebooks next, this problem that we just worked out. And we knew what the right answer was because, by golly, we were doing it, because he kept reminding us to do that, to put that star there.

Kevin Patton (29:33):
So when it was time to study, we knew exactly where to start our studying. That’s not where it ended, but that’s where we started it. We started with the stars. But those aren’t the important parts of the story for us now as A&P instructors. Not really. Stay tuned. I’ll tell you the rest in a moment.

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton (29:59):
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 well over 30 years. One of the key HAPS experiences is when we meet together. Talk about synergy. Wow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard first timers remark that they’d been in HAPS for a while, but never went to a meeting.

Kevin Patton (30:31):
And yeah, they’d heard good things about HAPS conferences, but couldn’t imagine they could be all that special. But after they got to one, oh my, they say, if they’d only known, they’d have tried any way they could to get to one. There’s some regional meetings coming up soon. To find out more, go visit HAPS at theAPprofessor.org/haps, that’s H-A-P-S.

Helping Students Identify Learning Goals

Kevin Patton (31:06):
That star story that I just told, that’s similar to the version I tell my A&P classes. Now the one I tell my A&P classes is a bit shorter. And thank goodness, right? That was a long story, and not a whole lot happened, but when I do it in my class, I get to add a lot more physical drama as I act out what happened and walk around the room and yeah. Okay. I overdramatize a little bit. And that’s an example of where a story based on a real situation, even if overdramatized to make it more fun and into more clearly emphasized the main point, it can be a way that we can use storytelling in our teaching.

Kevin Patton (31:50):
And I pulled together some ideas about storytelling in teaching and what that really means to me in episode 48, which was called the storytelling special. So you might want to go back and listen to episode 48 some time.

Kevin Patton (32:05):
But in this case, the star story, it’s teaching about how to learn science rather than a science concept per se. But the principle still applies no matter what the concepts are that we’re teaching, whether it’s science content or something related to learning science content as star story. So what I do in my class is this, I tell that story near the beginning of the course. And then when I get to a point where I say something like, oh, I don’t know, when I ask you to put the layers of the skin in the correct order from external to internal or internal to external. And I mean, all of the sub layers of the epidermis and the dermis, and let’s even go down to the subcutaneous layer and everything. You need to be able to put that all together on a test.

Kevin Patton (32:57):
And they’re all looking at me and nodding their heads. Yes. Okay. I get what you’re saying, and then I’ll stop, and I’ll just look, get them. And they’re not writing anything down. Well, maybe one or two are, they’re the ones that would have done well on that chemistry test, that first chemistry test. But the rest of them aren’t.

Kevin Patton (33:16):
So I repeat myself again, now as I just said on the test, and some still don’t get it. Now a few more will have said “Oh yes. A star.” So then I’ll walk over to the white board, and pick it up the dry erase marker, and draw a star on the board. And then you hear all these gasps, and I turned back around and sure, they’re all right in a star in their notebook.

Kevin Patton (33:39):
So I try to be really playful with it, but I am serious in teaching them to look for those cues, and that’s going to be something they can take with them beyond just my course, they’re going to be able to listen to cues like when I ask you to do this, or you should be able to do this, what are we doing? We’re basically verbalizing those learning outcomes that we have in our minds. And we’ve probably published somewhere for our student. It might be in the syllabus or in the module outline or instructions or who knows where, but everybody ignores that, right? I mean, the only people that look at that are, I don’t know, people who are accrediting our class for something, and they have a checklist, do you have learning outcomes published for your course?

Kevin Patton (34:23):
But what we can do is embed those in our storytelling, right? And in our teaching, and we can teach students to look for those. And then that’s a skill that they can take with them far beyond our course, along with the core concepts that we’re teaching in which we want them to take those far beyond our course as well.

Kevin Patton (34:43):
And it’s not just the star method, which I call star power. Not like it needs a name, and clearly I could not have invented it because Dr. Leo Malone, he’s the one that taught me how to do it. And maybe he learned it from somebody else, who knows, or maybe it just popped into his head. I don’t know. So it’s not what we call it. And it’s not who started it. It’s about how we as learners think about what’s going on in the course, and how we look for those clues that I just mentioned as to what’s important, and what’s not.

Kevin Patton (35:16):
It’s about learning how to read the teacher, but also about how to read the textbook, because sometimes that textbook or those instructional videos or those lab or those case studies, they have clues in them. Some of them very subtle, some of them not so subtle that really sort of lead us as students to what those learning outcomes should be. What’s the main point? We can ask ourselves what am I expected to know? How will I be asked about that knowledge? That is how will that knowledge that I’m expected to know be assessed or evaluated later on.

Kevin Patton (35:59):
But this lesson also has some lessons for us as teachers. Now, I learned a lot of chemistry from Dr. Malone. But of course that star thing was golden to me. And it came at a great time just as I was starting my adventures as a university student. It had a huge impact on my life. And he knows that. Because I came back to teach at that same university many years later. And when I saw him on campus, I happen to see him on the parking lot. And I ran over to him. He probably thought he was going to get mugged or something. And I introduced myself, reminded him who I was. And he said, he remembered. And I’m curious to know whether they really did at that point. But when I talked about that first class and all that things, you could see the lights kind of coming on. And maybe he was remembering me if not, at least remembering us as a group.

Kevin Patton (36:56):
And I made a point to tell him how it affected me, how it helped me as a student and how it’s helping my students. My point being that what we do in our classroom, even those things we think are small and not even related to the primary learning objectives of the course can have a bigger impact on one or two or 25 students than we might imagine. And some of them, like me, may take it further. I mean, I did, and I bet you, some other people have too, by the way, my buddy, Tim, went on to become a chemistry instructor, college chemistry professor.

Kevin Patton (37:40):
And so I wouldn’t be surprised if he took that star. I’ll have to get in touch with him again and see if he’s done that. But people like me and possibly my buddy, Tim, they pass it along. And maybe those others keep passing it along to people they know, and I’m passing it on to you today. So, Dr. Malone’s star power might now reach even more students all across the globe, because it’s in this podcast episode.

Kevin Patton (38:11):
But there’s a flip side to that. I always have to keep in mind to be careful, because when I inadvertently do something that negatively impacts my students, that can also have a huge effect on a student’s life. And that could get passed along too. What if that negative thing I do does get passed along. Yikes. I don’t want that. None of us want that. So yeah, that really makes me want to be careful.

Kevin Patton (38:44):
Something else I’ve learned from this as a teacher is to think about how I communicate to students, what it is that’s expected of them. I think learning works best when I can be up front with those learning objectives. Just like that elephant I was talking about earlier in the episode, let’s get him from behind in the background. Let’s get those learning objectives upfront. Let’s make them visible, not by posting them in the recommended places, because students never look there. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t do that. Yeah, we should. Because there are those little check boxes that need to be checked. So yeah, go ahead and put it there. And maybe there are a few students that look there, but instead let’s really work on embedding them in our communication, upfront and emphatically emphasized when they need to be. The more we do that for them, the more I’ll start to look for those clues on their own, in all sorts of contexts, beyond our course.

Kevin Patton (39:55):
All in all this may not be for you. I realize that, but it’s example of how we can take just a moment to help find a way to learn more efficiently. Maybe you have your own way of doing that. Maybe you didn’t even realize that you do that. Great. Treasure that, and cultivate that. But if you don’t, maybe you want to consider developing your own way of doing this sort of thing. If I asked you on a test, what you could do to help students take away the important points from your class, how would you answer that. Gold star to you if you just wrote a star in your notebook.

Staying Connected

Kevin Patton (40:43):
Well, let’s see. In this episode, we had a few science updates, right? One telling us how our cells may produce a soap like substance that can dissolve bacterial membranes. And one would think other microbial structures. An example of an ordinary cell taking on some defensive functions to protect us from infection. And I mentioned how COVID-19 can mode down respiratory cilia to produce severe pulmonary symptoms. A fact that may help our students see the importance of cilia when we talk about it in our course. And I revealed the secret of the appearing elephant trick.

Kevin Patton (41:28):
Now, if I suddenly disappear, you know it was the illusionists that did it because I revealed that secret. And I’m asking you now look under that trapped door to rescue me, okay? But that trick, that appearing elephant trick based on something that was there all along, being pulled into a more visible position applies not only to textbooks in our course, which is the context in which I brought it up, but it also illustrates how, when we use that star power strategy to help students pick up on our embedded hints of learning outcomes, we’re helping make that elephant visible to them.

Kevin Patton (42:15):
I think you probably heard one or two things in this episode, that kind of thinking things you probably want to chat about with a friend who teaches A&P, but of course they’ll want to listen to this episode, right? In order to have that conversation. Well, there’s an easy way to share this episode with a peer and also earn yourself a bit of cash. Simply go to theAPprofessor.org/refer to get a personalized share link that will not only get your friend all set up with this episode, but we’ll also get you on your way to earning a cash reward.

Kevin Patton (42:55):
I always provide links. If you want to know more, if you don’t see links in your podcast player, go to the show notes at the episode page at theAPprofessor.org/98, where you can explore any of the ideas mentioned in this podcast. And while you’re there, you can claim your digital credential for listening to this episode.

Kevin Patton (43:17):
And you’re always encouraged to call in with your questions, comments, and ideas at the podcast topline, that’s 1-833-LION-DEN or 1-833-5466-336. Or send a recording or written message to podcast@theAPprofessor.org. And you’re invited to join my private A&P teaching community way off the social platforms at theAPprofessor.org/community. I’ll see you down the road.

Aileen (43:57):
The A&P Professor is hosted by Dr. Kevin Patton. An award-winning professor and textbook author in human anatomy & physiology.

Kevin Patton (44:10):
Please do not use the earplugs while listening to this episode.

Kevin Patton (44:27):
This episode is dedicated to Leo J. Malone, chemistry professor extraordinary.

Episode | Captioned Audiogram

This podcast is sponsored by the
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Last updated: February 24, 2023 at 16:12 pm

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