Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Anatomy and physiology is something that you'll need the rest of your life!

That's right.  Not only will you need a strong foundation in the concepts of human structure and function for remainder of your academic program, you'll need that foundation for the rest of your career and beyond.  It's the basis for all clinical practice and research.

Some A&P students already have some skills in getting ideas into their short-term memories.  Enough to pass the test.  Then they relearn those ideas for the exam.  But often, much of it is gone months or years down the road.  How can one get it all into long-term memory?

The answer is easy!  


A few months ago, I wrote about the Wallenda model of homeostasis, using the Wallenda family of high-wire fame as an analogy for how the internal environment of the body maintains its vital balance.  Decades ago, when I was a wild animal trainer in the circus, I asked Tino Wallenda the secret to his great talent as a high-wire artist.  He told me, "Practice. Practice. Practice."   That really resonated with me.  I already knew that constant practice is the key to animal training.  Later, when I began teaching [human] students, I realized that no learning "sticks" without a lot of practice.

It's a simple principle.  But how do you put it into play in your A&P studies?  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Read the book more than once.  Break each chapter into chunks (sections) and read just a bit every day.  When you get to the end of the chapter, start the cycle again.  You'll be surprised at how much more you see and learn on a second or third reading.  It begins to "sink in" after repeated reading.  Don't forget to go back and occasinally re-read chapters you haven't looked at in a while.

  • Do as much homework as you can.  If your instructor doesn't assign homework, then assign it to yourself.  Write out the answers to the review questions at the end of each chapter in your textbook.  Find a study guide (perhaps there is one that supplements your textbook--ask your bookstore or search online).  

  • Make and use flash cards.  You can learn and practice terminology easily with flash cards.  But more advanced methods can be used to sort out relationships and understand the deeper concepts of A&P, as you can see in the video below.  You can also use published study cards to practice.

  • Take the test repeatedly.  Ask your teacher if they have old tests you can use for review.  If not, then make up your own!  This works even better if you have a study group--you can each prepare a test for the others to take.  Review your old tests.  If you don't have them in hand, try to remember the questions that were on them.

  • Do your practice every day.  Break your reading and other practice activities into chunks of about a half hour.  Then do several half-hour practices throughout the day.  Every day.  Holidays, weekends, and your birthday. Really. If you skip a day, you'll feel it.  So try not to skip.