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Anatomy and Physiology | Health Science | Teaching Strategies

5 Top Tips For Teaching Anatomy and Physiology

December 30th, 2021 | 6 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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As a high school anatomy and physiology teacher, you know it’s crucial to engage your students in critical content early and often. With so much important material to commit to memory, CTE health science students need to start their anatomy and physiology courses off on the right foot.

That’s why whether you are new to teaching or are facing fresh challenges, it’s important to find and implement teaching strategies that will work for you and your learners.

In this article, you’ll discover five of the best strategies you can use to improve your anatomy and physiology classes right away:

  1. Focus on the Health Science Context
  2. Focus on Medical Terminology
  3. Use Lab-Based Instruction When Possible
  4. Assess Early and Often
  5. Implement Engagement Strategies

When you’ve finished reading, you’ll be more prepared to face challenges in your anatomy and physiology classes and help your students succeed.

1. Focus on the Health Science Context

teach anatomy and physiology - focus on health scienceThe first and perhaps most important strategy for teaching anatomy and physiology is to focus on its specific applications to CTE health science.

Teaching anatomy and physiology for students in a career and technical education pathway is surprisingly different from a regular high school anatomy course. 

Whereas a typical high school class will learn the material as part of a general science curriculum, your students need to understand the unique applications of anatomy and physiology to careers in healthcare.

Because your students will soon be working in clinical settings, their specific knowledge of anatomy and physiology will quickly be put to the test. That’s why it’s even more critical for them to understand the essential value of the material and develop a working knowledge of the body and its system.

Whenever possible, focus on ideas and examples that apply directly to students’ intended health professions. Providing this context will go a long way toward helping your students better connect with and understand anatomy and physiology. In turn, they’ll be more invested and engaged and be able to use what they’ve learned to be successful in the future.

2. Focus on Medical Terminology

teach anatomy and physiology - focus on medical terminology

While medical terms are an integral part of many health science courses, nowhere is it more critical than in anatomy and physiology. This is mainly due to the sheer amount of material students need to memorize to fully understand the human body and its systems. 

In other words, understanding medical terminology is critical for students’ performance in health careers. Practicing and cementing medical terminology now will set students up for success throughout their lives. 

Much like studying vocabulary or geography, disciplined memorization of medical terms leads to a working knowledge that future health professionals will rely on in clinical settings.

Even if students have already studied medical terminology as part of another course, it’s essential to review these terms frequently in your anatomy classes.

There are a lot of methods you can use to review this material, such as one of several popular medical terminology textbooks or lesson plans for high school teachers.

However, if you’re working with students who have already learned medical terminology, you might not need to spend time with a textbook or an elaborate lesson plan. Sometimes, the best ways to motivate your students are through interactive activities and games.

If you’re looking for an easy way to bring a renewed focus on medical terminology into your anatomy and physiology course, consider one of these engaging medical terminology games

Your learners may think they’re just having fun in the classroom, but they’ll be cementing the language of health science professions that will help them in your course and for decades to come.

3. Use Lab-Based Instruction When Possibleteach anatomy and physiology - use lab-based instruction

No anatomy and physiology course is truly complete without a robust lab-based component. Although opportunities to work in a lab are often available throughout a student’s high school health science courses, they’re instrumental in studying anatomy.

The human body consists of complex, interconnected systems that can be difficult to contextualize and understand. Visual aids, demonstrations, and lab exercises help students develop better knowledge of anatomy and physiology through tangible, interactive experiences.

Depending on the resources available to you, lab-based instruction can occur in class, at home, or in the field. Some common examples of lab-based education include:

  • Teacher demonstrations
  • Class dissections
  • Working with models
  • Health career field experiences
  • At-home instruction kits

While you might be limited by your school’s financial resources or partnerships with local medical institutions, the best laboratory experiences often involve students working on their own or in groups.

Whether partnering with students on a dissection or building a model from Anatomy in Clay, students can develop a strong appreciation of anatomy and physiology through direct experience. As importantly, collaborating with others helps health science students gain valuable soft skills essential to working in a clinical environment.

4. Assess Early and Oftenteach anatomy and physiology assessments

Experienced educators know the importance of assessing students early and often throughout the learning process. While your students might bemoan taking yet another test, these assessments are essential to quantify their success in health science.

Giving frequent assessments, even simple quizzes and knowledge checks, is considered by many to be a best practice to ensure students retain information. This is especially true for anatomy and physiology classes, where these little tests could be the difference between students staying on track or falling behind.

If assessing students frequently sounds complicated and time-consuming, the reality is that it doesn’t have to be. You can use bell ringer activities and questions to focus students’ attention on learning at the beginning of class. Tickets out the door are an effective way to verify their understanding at the end of the day.

If you’re looking for an even more streamlined assessment process, a blended learning platform often includes ways to check students’ knowledge through automatically graded quizzes and tests.

5. Implement Engagement Strategiesengagement strategies for anatomy and physiology

Ultimately, your anatomy and physiology students will learn the most when they are connected and committed to learning the course material. To ensure your students are confident, you’ll want to use strategies that enhance and develop student engagement.

There are many effective engagement strategies that teachers can use to pique student interest in anatomy and physiology and other CTE health science courses. While any single approach can be successful on its own, the best teachers typically use a combination of several different techniques to get the most from their students.

Some popular engagement strategies teachers have found success with include:

  • Taking creative instructional approaches that increase interest and understanding
  • Promoting active learning instead of relying on passive learning
  • Implementing curriculum with engaging instructional design
  • Utilizing blended learning to encourage engagement while limiting screen time

Overall, the more engaging you can be in the classroom, the better your learners will internalize the essential lessons they need to understand. Engaged students see better results on assessments and certifications and are the most prepared to enter the workforce as healthcare professionals.

If you’re struggling to find a simple way to engage your students better, consider a strategy like blended learning that keeps students focused in multiple ways at the same time. This way, you can save time while keeping your classes excited about anatomy and physiology.

Set Your Anatomy and Physiology Students Up For Success

Learning the fundamentals of anatomy and physiology is the key to a working knowledge of the human body and its systems. That means, to set your students up for success, you’ll want to do everything you can to teach this topic effectively.

In this article, you’ve learned five effective teaching strategies that will go a long way to ensuring your students achieve their goals. Not only will they be better equipped to do well in their remaining health science courses, but they’ll also have learned key skills that will help them become adept health science professionals.

However, you shouldn’t stop at just using solid teaching strategies. Often, teachers benefit from some of the best high school anatomy and physiology activities recommended by other teachers. You can use these activities right away to connect with your students and keep them learning.

When you read this article, you’ll learn about four top activities teachers find compelling and engaging when teaching their anatomy students. After reading, you’ll be even more prepared to teach anatomy and physiology to health science students successfully.

Discover the Best High School Anatomy and Physiology Activities