Examining Dr. Liz Co’s Teaching Motivations and Philosophy

It is not easy to teach and learn anatomy and physiology. Dr. Elizabeth Co, a new author, shares her hopes and challenges–and how she overcomes them.

What do you hope students take away from your A&P course?
One thing ?!?! How can I choose one? I want them fluent in A&P. I want them learn to critically think about scientific and medical information. I want them understand and appreciate the patterns of the human body. Most importantly, I want them to be curious about the body’s functions.
“I want to incite their wonder about the body’s functions.”
I want them all to understand that while we humans may be alike, we are not all the same. There are many physiological and anatomical differences that are not pathologies. They are examples of evolutionary and functional differences between us. I want them to be able to understand the details, such as the alveoli and nephron. I can only imagine my students’ high expectations!

What are your top challenges for students?
The first is to move beyond memorization. Many of my students have built a successful learning path on their memorization skills. These students are passionate about learning and want to succeed in A&P. It is not that memorization should be avoided. It’s an important skill but it’s not sufficient.
Mastery-level learning in A&P requires that you memorize the pieces, definitions, and locations. Then you must understand how they all fit together so you can apply your knowledge to new situations.
For some students, it is a challenge to build their learner self-confidence and support their scientist identities. I also help them to change their learning so that they incorporate diverse strategies instead of memorization. This can be difficult for them, especially if they are unsure of their abilities. They might feel that failure is inevitable when they try to grow.
I approach this challenge with a relentless transparency. I am open with students about their learning and share my pedagogy as well as the evidence through the course. Peer-learning is something I also incorporate into my classroom. It’s a tremendous help. To learn A&P, it takes a village.
I tried to incorporate all these elements in my new textbook, Anatomy & Physiology.

I begin with a friendly discussion about Chapter 1’s pedagogy. To encourage students to understand and not just memorize, the themes from Chapter 1 are reintroduced throughout the text.

Students will find study tips written by A&P students throughout the book to bring the student learning experience into their hands.

What lab do you enjoy performing with your students the most?
One favorite? It’s like asking me for a favorite child. The heart. The heart dissection is my favorite because it makes it almost impossible to understand the anatomy by simply looking.
Because of the complexity of the heart, students must take an active role. It is easy to see the reluctant student who sits at the sidelines of the table. They initially lean in, but keep their feet planted. But soon, they are gloving up and exploring the intricate details of the major vessels that leave from the top. Everything makes sense once the heart is in your hands. The chordae tendonae’s toughness, the fragility of fossa ovalis, and the difference in the thickness of the muscular walls. The springiness of aorta, compared to the floppy Vena Cavae. There is so much structure and function. It’s difficult to see the interconnectedness of the vessels and the relationship between them in the heart if you only look at one image.
Because so many cultures value the heart as the center and source of our bodies, our health, and our love, it is also awe-inspiring that students hold their hearts, in addition to the cognitive wow factor of all the structures.

Dr. Co’s “real life moments” are a reflection of the mission of Anatomy & Physiology. It is to give students a fresh perspective on the material and connect it to their daily lives. This, along with a diverse mindset that encourages deeper thought, is the key takeaway from any instructor who considers using this text to teach their course.

Download two chapters from Dr. Elizabeth Co’s new book to get a sneak peak at Dr. Co’s new text today!