Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reading scientific terms

I've said before that the first step to learning the concepts of A&P is learning the language of A&P. Some new research shows us why learning and recognizing the terms used in an A&P course are important for understanding the story being told in the course.

A recent article in Science News summarizes new research that demonstrates that when you read a passage, such as in your A&P textbook, your brain is recognizing whole words rather then reading each term letter by letter. At least that's what appears to be happening with "good readers" of the material. Folks that have difficulty reading a passage probably have to stop more often at unfamiliar terms and read them letter by letter (or word part by word part).

Reading experts have understood for a long time that familiarity with the words . . . the vocabulary of the material you are reading . . . improves reading speed and retention. Now, we have some insights as to how the brain works in producing this effect . . . and proof to back up what was once conjecture about brain mechanisms.

So how can we apply this concept to improving your learning of A&P?
  • Always familiarize yourself with the new terms of each new chapter of your A&P textbook before you read the chapter
  • Read through the word list out loud to give your brain the familiarity with term it needs to recognize the terms as you encounter then when reading. The word list begins at the start of each chapter. This sounds silly, and it seems like it might be a waste of time, but it really works . . . and in the long run, saves you time by allowing you to read faster.
  • Even if you don't read the textbook (a really bad idea), you'll need these terms to understand your teacher, handouts, and your own notes
  • Use the in-text pronunciation guides and online audio pronunciation guide that comes with your textbook to make sure that you use the correct pronunciation for each term. This allows your brain to really "own" the term so that it doesn't trip you up and slow you down as you read.
  • By putting a little time and effort into getting familiar with new words at the beginning of a new topic, you'll end up saving time later on. And most importantly, you'll be much more likely to understand what you are reading.
Studying A&P can be frustrating because of all the new terms involved. But you've just learned a great way . . . a scientifically supported way . . . of reducing that frustration!

For more tips on learning terminology, including some brief videos, see these previous articles.

[photo by (nz)dave at flickr]