Posted by: northeastnation | November 28, 2012

The cure for the common classroom? More myelinization!

A Friday morning in the TRiO Student Support Services lab find four groups of Anatomy and Physiology students studying and working together with a tutor.  Northeast State faculty members Dr. Brent Lockhart and Dale Ledford circle the classroom giving their time assisting tutors and furthering discussions.

But the session belongs to the students.

“To learn it is better to say something than to read it,” explains Theron Booher, a Northeast State student and tutor who volunteers his time every Friday morning this fall to help fellow A&P students. “This method teaches students how to study and learn outside of class.”

Theron Booher tutors students in anatomy at the TRiO Lab.

Tutors lead groups of three to four students on a variety of anatomy and physiology topics.   The tutors explain anatomy while connecting the subject to a visual cue such as moving their arms or legs to demonstrate the aspects of anatomy.  Each student gets a turn in the role of professor guiding his or her group.

Given the sheer amount of information students must learn, Anatomy and Physiology ranks as the most challenging subject health-related professions majors face during the first year of college.  The subject is divided into two semester long sections and is required for all health-related professions majors.

The TRiO hosts the Anatomy and Physiology tutoring session at the TRiO Lab in the General Studies Building. TRiO Director Teressa Dobbs suggested moving the A & P tutoring sessions to the TRiO Lab earlier this year.  The thought helps TRiO students enrolled in health-related majors and give A & P students a set time and place to get tutoring assistance.

“We volunteer our time, TRiO allows us to use their lab, and the students get a place to increase their knowledge through each other,” explained Lockhart.

Booher referred to the tutoring process as “more myelinization”.  Defined in Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, myelinization is the act of adding myelin sheath around nerve fiber.  The result is a faster, cleaner movement of information across the nerves synapses – a good analogy of how group tutoring shares information with peers and develops a student’s understanding of a subject.

Professor Dale Ledford lends his time to help anatomy students.

April Hodges, a TRiO student taking part in the tutoring sessions, said the group learning environment not only gave her a more intense understanding of anatomy definitions but how they worked as a system.  As the first member of her family poised to earn a college degree, Hodges also praised TRiO for helping her adjust to college life.

“The group setting gives you the back and forth communication that helps look at the subject and understand how everyone else learns it,” said Hodges, a Nursing major.

Lockhart added the rotating roles meant every student became a pseudo-professor for the group.

“What we are doing here is stimulating the student’s brain,” explained Lockhart, professor of biology at Northeast State.  “One student acts as the professor with the other students learning from them.  The role of professor then moves on to another student who must take on the role of teacher.”

The A&P tutoring model gives students the chance to be professor and student while helping their classmates learn the material.

Rita Muller heard about the tutoring opportunities in Dr. Lockhart’s A&P I class.  She jumped at the chance to improve her knowledge of the subject.

“The tutoring has been really helpful,” said Muller, a Surgical Technology major. “One thing I really like is learning the information in a different way and understanding how everyone’s style of learning differs and how we all learn from each other.”

The TRiO Student Support Services program is a federally funded grant program designed to provide an array of free services to limited number of eligible students each academic year.  Lockhart said the program’s willingness to lend their space and time was instrumental to his department’s work with students.

“If you want to know something, teach it,” he said. “This is what we are doing, and TRiO is making that possible.”

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