Mapping the Big Picture via Homeostasis

It can be very hard for someone who is fascinated by a topic to understand when or why a student does not think about that topic with curiosity and depth.  Is it possible to merely memorize facts and not question them or link them or categorize them into a broader and more interesting understanding?  Of course most of you KNOW that the answer is ‘Yes’ but it is at times hard to comprehend or teach around that realization.

The second semester of A&P presents the opportunity for students to see repeat performances of osmosis, transport, chemical buffering, neurologic and endocrinologic response to stimulation or to distress… all in an effort to maintain homeostasis….. or the ability to purchase and consume a milkshake – whichever comes first!  Students who recognize patterns and understand processes as agents of change or homeostasis rather than just as lines on a flashcard to be memorized will come away with a better understanding of physiology.

To encourage this deeper understanding in your students I suggest the following:
1) When discussing a particular response, chemical reaction, type of transport, or defense, always ask where the class has encountered this before.  Help students see the patterns involved in physiologic activity and response.

2) Provide or point students to graphic organizers (links to follow) with the assignment or suggestion that they ‘map’ out homeostasis or the components thereof.

a) At a basic level they can just keep a running list of where certain activities or reactions can be found, such as a list for osmosis; active transport; potassium-pump; specific buffering reactions; etc.

b) At a more advanced level they can use a concept map to tie all of these lists back to homeostasis.  Here is a link to a concept map example.
A concept map is great for brainstorming what you know and finding new links between things you know.
Link to blank concept map
A Multi-Layer Layout is great for organizing known information, or in this case continuing to add to a few categories with Homeostasis as the main idea and categories such as pH, oxygen level and ATP creation / usage at the next level.
Link to blank Multi-Layer Layout
A Cause and Effect Map is just what it sounds like – a way to map out a chain of reactions or triggering events.
Link to blank Cause and Effect Map

c) Remind students that their textbooks are usually set up with some sort of organization layout such as a multi-layer layout in the headings of the chapters and sections.  Very often fonts and colors are used to designate where in an organizational schema the information under the heading lies.  Students can increase their understanding of the information by paying attention to the hierarchical presentation of information in their textbook…. and hopefully in your presentation (make sure your categories are clear in presentation!).

3) Help students continually ask ‘Why?’’ about processes and reactions.  Why does the body respond in this way?  How does it respond in this way?  What triggers the response?  Is the response automatic or does the individual decide to engage it?  What are the consequences if the response does not take place?  What would keep the response from taking place?