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The Inclusive Anatomy & Physiology Course | Part 2 | 8 More Tips to Include All | TAPP 109

The Inclusive Anatomy & Physiology Course | Part 2

TAPP Radio Episode 109


Episode | Quick Take

This episode continues a discussion of the many simple strategies available for making our anatomy and physiology course more inclusive. Here, we learn eight more easy ways to make our courses work better for all learners.

  • 0:00:00 | Introduction
  • 0:00:46 | More on the Inclusive Course
  • 0:07:51 | Sponsored by AAA
  • 0:08:38 | 8. Student Interest Survey
  • 0:14:35 | 9. Inclusive Office Hours
  • 0:24:22 | Sponsored by HAPI
  • 0:25:27 | 10. Valuing Diverse Viewpoints
  • 0:29:08 | 11. Inclusive Classroom Demeanor
  • 0:55:44 | Sponsored by HAPS
  • 0:56:38 | 12. Learning from Mistakes
  • 0:58:56 | 13. Suggest a Different Instructor
  • 1:08:33 | 14. Many Challenges Are Invisible
  • 1:13:12 | 15. Practice Love
  • 1:16:01 | Staying Connected


Episode | Listen Now

Episode | Show Notes

Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. (Parker Palmer)


More on the Inclusive Course

7 minutes

This episode—and the previous one—discuss a large basket of practical ways we can make our anatomy and physiology course more inclusive. Here, we review the previous 7 tips and then set the stage for 8 more tips. And some news and updates.


Sponsored by AAA

1 minute

A searchable transcript for this episode, as well as the captioned audiogram of this episode, are sponsored by the American Association for Anatomy (AAA) at anatomy.org.

Searchable transcript

Captioned audiogram 

Don’t forget—HAPS members get a deep discount on AAA membership!

AAA logo

8. Student Interest Survey

6 minutes

The more we know about students, the more we can figure out ways to include them in our course.


9. Inclusive Office Hours

9.5 minutes

Are our office hours set up for our own convenience? Or do they instead reflect the diverse needs of our students? Learn how Kevin customizes his office hours by using an online scheduler.


Sponsored by HAPI Online Graduate Program

1 minute

The Master of Science in Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction—the MS-HAPI—is a graduate program for A&P teachers, especially for those who already have a graduate/professional degree. A combination of science courses (enough to qualify you to teach at the college level) and courses in contemporary instructional practice, this program helps you be your best in both on-campus and remote teaching. Kevin Patton is a faculty member in this program at Northeast College of Health Sciences. Check it out!


Logo of Northeast College of Health Sciences, Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction


10. Valuing Diverse Viewpoints

3.5 minutes

If we set expectations for valuing diverse viewpoints in our course—especially with the help (and buy-in) of our students—we can ramp up the inclusiveness of our course.


11. Inclusive Classroom Demeanor

26.5 minutes

A playful class atmosphere is—by its very nature—an inclusive classroom atmosphere. The more flexible and playful our course is, the more inclusive it can become.


Sponsored by HAPS

1 minute

The Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS) is a sponsor of this podcast.  You can help appreciate their support by clicking the link below and checking out the many resources and benefits found there. Watch for virtual town hall meetings and upcoming regional meetings!

Anatomy & Physiology Society


HAPS logo


12. Learning from Mistakes

2.5 minutes

We cannot evolve to be more inclusive faculty if we do not recognize and correct our mistakes.


13. Suggest a Different Instructor

9.3 minutes

Sometimes, things simply do not click between you and a student—possibly thwarting their success. If possible, a student may benefit from switching to a section with a different instructor.


14. Many Challenges Are Invisible

4.5 minutes

If we are on the lookout only for visible diversity and visible challenges our students may face, we are going to miss the many different invisible challenges. If we want our course to be more inclusive, we must consider the invisible.


15. Practice Love

5 minutes

Practicing love—compassion, empathy, and kindness—for all our students is the foundational strategy that underlies all the tips the given in these two episodes on making our course more inclusive.

Need help accessing resources locked behind a paywall?
Check out this advice from Episode 32 to get what you need!

Episode | Captioned Audiogram

Episode | Transcript

The A&P Professor podcast (TAPP radio) episodes are made for listening, not reading. This transcript is provided for your convenience, but hey, it’s just not possible to capture the emphasis and dramatic delivery of the audio version. Or the cool theme music.  Or laughs and snorts. And because it’s generated by a combo of machine and human transcription, it may not be exactly right. So I strongly recommend listening by clicking the audio player provided.

AAA logoThis searchable transcript is supported by the
American Association for Anatomy.
I'm a member—maybe you should be one, too!

PDF icon


Kevin Patton (00:00:01):
Educator Parker Palmer once wrote, “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”

Aileen (00:00:14):
Welcome to The A&P Professor, a few minutes to focus on teaching human anatomy and physiology with a veteran educator and teaching mentor, your host, Kevin Patton.

Kevin Patton (00:00:30):
This is the second of two episodes discussing ways to make our A&P course more inclusive.

More on the Inclusive Course

Kevin Patton (00:00:46):
Before I start in on this episode’s list of easy, simple strategies for making our courses more inclusive, I want to recap what we did last time. But before I do that, what I want to do is bring us up-to-date on a couple of things. One is you may remember back in episode 91, that was an episode called Burnout, a chat with Rebecca Pope-Ruark. And in that conversation, Rebecca said that she was working on a book on burnout and what we can do about it. And you know what? It’s happening. In September of this year, 2022, her new book called Unraveling Faculty Burnout: Pathways to Reckoning and Renewal is coming out from John Hopkins University Press. So you might want to go check that out.

Kevin Patton (00:01:47):
Another thing that came across my desk or came across my iPhone recently was a tweet from Dr. Amanda Meyer, who teaches A&P down in Western Australia. And she was responding to the last episode where I was recommending that it’s an inclusive practice to make sure that we’re pronouncing the names of our students correctly. And of course that extends out to our colleagues and friends and family members too. And what Amanda shared was a couple of resources that she knows of that can be used, where students can record their names and how they’re pronounced, so that people like me who sometimes have a hard time and need to kind of practice that again and again, we can do that.

Kevin Patton (00:02:41):
So I’m going to put those links in the show notes at the episode page for this episode. I’ll probably go back to the show notes from the previous episode and update those as well. But I sure do appreciate Amanda’s sharing of that. And if you know of other resources for that or other things that I’m mentioning in this two part series on the inclusive A&P course or on anything really that we talk about in this podcast, be sure to share those with me. You can do that through social media, my location there in all the major channels is @theAPprofessor. Or you can contact me through the podcast hotline or email or, well, we’ll do all that at the end of the episode. But again, thanks Amanda, for sharing that, and encourage you all to share those things that have worked really well for you.

Kevin Patton (00:03:35):
Before we get into today’s tips…

I have eight tips. And as always, when I say I have this one tip, it turns out to be three or four of them buried in there because I keep going down these little pathways, these little diverging pathways. But just to recap, the major, the major themes that we talked about in the previous episode, I had seven of them, seven tips or strategies making our A&P course more inclusive. Just very quickly I want to review those.

Kevin Patton (00:04:04):
One is ensure your course reflects a diverse society and a diverse world. The second one is to ensure that your course and media are accessible. And just a little sidelight there. You may know if you’re a member of HAPS or maybe even if you’re not a member of HAPS, you may realize that there has recently been a series of town hall meetings addressing different kinds of accessibility specific to teaching the anatomy and physiology course. And that includes the lab, because there are a lot of accessibility issues in labs. So just, I’ll have a link in the show notes and episode page where you can go back and replay those previous town hall meetings where we just had some excellent presentations and questions and answers, and I went to all of them and they were really well done and I learned a lot and I’m sure you will too.

Kevin Patton (00:05:04):
The third thing I talked about last time was ensure that your syllabus sets the tone for diversity and inclusion. The fourth thing was to use inclusive language. And that includes inclusive terminology in the A&P course. And something I didn’t mention then, I don’t think I did, and that is the use of eponyms. Eponyms are not very inclusive. They’re kind of exclusive. A lot of people got excluded when things got named. Sometimes the person we think was the discoverer of anatomical structure really wasn’t. We want to make sure that we’re using scientific terminology that is the most up-to-date in terms of inclusiveness.

Kevin Patton (00:05:53):
And then the fifth thing we talked about last time is to share your gender pronouns and why that improves and encourages inclusiveness. And then the sixth one is learn and use students preferred names. And that’s where that conversation about pronouncing them correctly came up. And then the seventh and last one that we talked about last time is to engage students in small group introductions activities early in the course.

Kevin Patton (00:06:22):
So that’s all in episode 108. If you have not yet listened to episode 108, it’s not a bad idea to go back and listen to that. And then come back to this one. Or just go ahead and listen to this one and then circle back and listen to episode number 108.

Kevin Patton (00:06:38):
And because I’m really jamming in a lot of different kinds of ideas in both of these episodes, this is a pair of episodes that’s not a bad idea to maybe go through another time. Just leave it set for a while. Leave it set for enough time that you forget it was in there and then come back to it again. And I think some more things will pop out and new ideas will be sparked when you do that.

Kevin Patton (00:07:02):
So in this episode, which we’re going to really get into, I promise in just a second, in this episode I have eight more of those tips. And I do want to mention that the first 10 of the tips, they come from a toolkit that was put together by the Association of College and University Educators, ACUE that I based it on those. And then I have some additional tips that I added on at the end. But of course, like all of these tips they kind of overlap one another in certain ways, and we’re going to get into the last three from the ACUE list. And then just keep on going into the list of strategies that I added on. So we’ll be right back.

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton (00:07:51):
Before we move on to our next segment, I just want to take a brief moment to remind you that there’s a searchable transcript and a captioned audiogram of this episode and every episode available at the episode page in the TAPP app, which is our dedicated podcast app and at listennotes.com and in our YouTube channel. These high quality transcripts are funded by AAA, the American Association for Anatomy, publishers of that popular journal for teaching and learning anatomy and physiology called Anatomical Sciences Education. Check it out at anatomy.org.

8. Student Interest Survey

Kevin Patton (00:08:33):
Okay. So tip or strategy number eight from the ACUE list is to use an interest survey to connect with students. If you put together an online questionnaire, and there are all kinds of platforms that allow you to do that, including probably the learning management system that you’re already using, put together a brief questionnaire that asks students about things like what is their preferred name? What are their preferred pronouns? What kind of work experience do you have? What kind of plans for the future you have? What are you most looking forward to in this course, and what are you most afraid of or concerned about in this course? And boy, we run into that a lot in A&P, don’t we?

Kevin Patton (00:09:28):
Because A&P is a rigorous course. No matter what you do with it, even if you’re trying to make it less rigorous, which I don’t know that that would be the appropriate goal. Maybe more accessible, maybe more learnable, maybe simpler in many ways, but there’s still rigor there. Right? And so they’ve learned about that rigor and they’ve learned that you don’t just fly through an A&P course. You have to do some work. You’re going to be rewarded for that work because you’re going to learn a heck of a lot about the human body, but there’s a lot of work involved and that’s always concerning to students. And also concerned that they’re going to be able to do that kind of work. What kind of work is it and so on.

Kevin Patton (00:10:12):
So letting them vent that, letting them put that out there, like I’m really worried that I’m going to be able to do this, that gives us an opportunity to reassure them. It’s going to help you connect with them. Especially if you take the time to listen to what they’re saying. And also, as you’re listening in there, some of those concerns that they relate or some of the other information that they share may tip you off into particular things that certain students have some needs that you’re not aware of.

Kevin Patton (00:10:44):
Yes, there’s probably an office on your campus somewhere that’s dealing with documented challenges and needs that need to have accommodations and so on. But there are many, many, many individual circumstances, individual challenges, individual minds that we deal with, each of which can be maybe helped or accommodated by differences in the way we do things or alternatives or choices that we give students. So listening for that sort of thing can help us fine tune our course and maybe even offer some additional choices that we hadn’t planned on offering based on some of the preferences or needs or challenges of particular students in your class.

Kevin Patton (00:11:34):
For example, if you hear from a lot of students that they’re having difficulty with a workload in their job or having difficulty with, I don’t know, children being at home because their school is closed or something, and they’re trying to work on this course too, then we can listen for that and maybe build in more flexibility in areas of our course where we hadn’t been as flexible before. When I’ve done those sorts of things, I found that I just keep it in there because it’s not only going to work for that student that I was thinking about when I designed that extra flexibility, it’s going to work for all kinds of other students, maybe all students. So we’re back to this idea that I brought up last time and that we often talk about, when we’re talking about teaching and we’re talking about teaching A&P in particular, we talk about universal design. We talk about making our courses more accessible for all students so that all students can succeed in our course.

Kevin Patton (00:12:34):
The ACUE recommends an interest survey in the form of an online questionnaire as an example. It doesn’t have to be an online questionnaire. It can be multiple different things. For example, my Pre-A&P course, the first thing I do is I have them click on a link where they go to something called an Answer Garden, where they are asked, what are your feelings as you’re approaching your first A&P course? Because this is Pre-A&P, remember? So they’re preparing for their first A&P course. So what are your thoughts and feelings right now as you’re facing that?

Kevin Patton (00:13:14):
And it’s really interesting to see what kind of thoughts I get. Most of them are really excited. Most of them are looking forward to it. Some of them express they’re a little bit scared, they’re a little bit concerned about it. And that’s probably why they’re taking Pre-A&P because it’s an optional course. It’s an elective. Not all A&P students take Pre-A&P, but those that do, do way better in A&P than those that don’t.

Kevin Patton (00:13:40):
So my point is, is that that’s just a little piece. And then I have other opportunities that I have, some of which are discussions where I ask them, go in and introduce yourself and talk about why you’re taking Pre-A&P or what you’re doing here or what your plans are for the next couple of years? So that’s another way to do it. And I can go in and monitor that, scan through it, and make use of that information just like I would, if I was doing an actual survey. You can do that in the form of a face-to-face discussion in class too.

Kevin Patton (00:14:15):
So all kinds of ways to do that. But by getting information about our students, that enables us to connect better with students and that makes for a more inclusive environment, because now we can include everybody because we know who everybody is in our course.

9. Inclusive Office Hours

Kevin Patton (00:14:35):
The ninth tip of our strategy for trying to make our A&P course more inclusive or keeping it inclusive is to offer inclusive office hours. Boy, office hours, that is a weird thing, isn’t it? Usually our teaching contracts stipulate a minimum number of office hours. We need to be available to students to discuss with them. Now we’ve seen some changes in the way office hours are handled recently at most colleges, at least that’s what I’m hearing and that’s what I’m experiencing myself. And that is that the way we can offer office hours is much more flexible than it used to be.

Kevin Patton (00:15:15):
It wasn’t all that long ago when if you were teaching a face-to-face class, you must not have virtual office hours. You have to be on campus and in a particular location. I’ve been to places where you couldn’t have your office hours in the café. You had to have them in your office. That’s why we gave you an office. Of course, the majority of faculty these days don’t have an office. They’re adjunct or part-time faculty. And many of those don’t have an office, or if they have an office, it’s a shared office where it’s not really a good space to be discussing things with students. And we need to kind of meet them there and then take them, find another place, a little corner somewhere where the student feels a little more comfortable discussing things with you. And that may be the café if you’re allowed to do that.

Kevin Patton (00:16:02):
But my point is here is that we luckily on our end are seeing more flexibility. And that gives us more flexibility then for our students as well, because now we can make them more inclusive by offering them at different times. If I can offer virtual office hours when I’m normally not on campus, like maybe in the evening, because I teach at community college, that’s one of the places I teach. But even the graduate students I teach in the HAPI program, they all have jobs during the day or at least many of them do. They’re either teaching themselves or they’re in some kind of clinical practice or maybe they’re working on some other degree while they’re working on this one. There all kinds of things. We get lots of variety at both the institutions I teach at. And a lot of students just aren’t available when it’s convenient for me to have office hours.

Kevin Patton (00:16:57):
When I first started teaching, I made office hours to be convenient for me. I didn’t think about making them convenient for students, or if I did, I kind of dismissed that thought and went on to something else. I’m sad to say, but that’s the way I did it. And my convenience still sort of pops into my head as the first factor when I’m trying to design my office hours.

Kevin Patton (00:17:20):
So what does that mean offering inclusive office hours? Well, be flexible and try to get a variety of times, time of the day or evening, maybe weekends, maybe how long of a time. I taught with somebody who would offer 15-minute segments of office hours for all of his students. So if he had three students, they each got five minutes, or they could join together and share that and have a group discussion during office hours.

Kevin Patton (00:17:58):
Sometimes you have to put in a little short session here or there because of your own schedule and your own other obligations. And that’s okay. But to just do a whole bunch to a little 15-minute sessions here and there to try and discourage students from coming, yeah, that’s like the opposite of what we need to do for an inclusiveness in our course.

Kevin Patton (00:18:20):
That would be a thing, a variety of formats. Like have some that are virtual. Have some that are face-to-face if you’re able to do that. Have some that are phone call. Maybe even just have office hours where you can do texting or having a text chat going on during a certain time where students can pipe in and ask content questions, or course related questions or anything like that. Email, you can do office hours by way of email. That may not count for your supervisor I know, but we’re talking about real life here and not necessarily policies and procedures.

Kevin Patton (00:18:55):
And offer a variety of structures as I mentioned before. You can have some one-on-one office hours, but you might have a designated time where it’s a group thing where we’re going to meet as a group at this time. And anybody wants to the group and ask questions or listen in on what other students questions are, you’re welcome to do that. So think about offering a variety of structures.

Kevin Patton (00:19:19):
And something that I’ve recently started doing that has worked really, really, really well for me. Now it may not work for you or it may not work in your situation, but has worked really well for me. And that is I do my office hours by appointment and I do them virtually. I do them online by way of Zoom. I must have, oh, I don’t know, maybe 20, 30 office hours in a week that are available. And you’re thinking, “Holy smoke, I cannot do that. There is no way I can do that.” But it sounds different than it really is. What I do is I use an online scheduling app. So I put the link to that app in my syllabus. And when you look in my syllabus under information about the instructor and how to contact the instructor, I put in there here’s the link for my office hours.

Kevin Patton (00:20:12):
And so they go to that link. They go to this online scheduler. And it’s one of those apps that you might use to schedule an appointment with your fitness trainer or with your yoga instructor, maybe a medical appointment or something like that. Different kinds of people have these online scheduling apps. You need an appointment, go in, make an appointment online. And so you go in and set schedule and it shows them, on Monday here’s a few times that I’m available. And you can click on any of these 15-minute slots here and you can have 15 minutes.

Kevin Patton (00:20:43):
Now, if a student needs more than 15 minutes, then I can give them a different link. So let’s start with 15 minutes. If we need more time, and I have something right after that, then I’ll just give you another link for a longer time. Most often, I don’t get that many students back to back like that, or they’re making their appointments back to back with some other obligation I have. So we can just go longer than the 15 minutes. It’s not locked in like everything shuts down in 15 minutes. I have to shut it down in 15 minutes if I need to.

Kevin Patton (00:21:16):
The point that I’m making here is that the students are able to select from maybe there’s 20 or 30 hours that the scheduler has shown as me being available to meet with a student. Now, a lot of the work that I do is not scheduled work. It’s flexible. So as I’m doing my writing chores and editing chores is I’m doing this right now, recording episodes for a podcast or doing all the many hours of pre-production and post-production work on my podcast, or the things that I’m doing for my teaching, the setting up of courses and different things in the courses, making media, answering student questions by email, having other conferences, grading stuff. That takes a lot of time, but it’s flexible.

Kevin Patton (00:22:06):
So if I’m doing, let’s say, two or three hours worth of grading, if in the middle of that I can do a 15-minute conference with a student, I’ll do it. It’s going to break up the grading, which is always good for productivity, but it’s also going to make it more convenient for the student because they’re meeting with me at the time that is best for them. So they’re going to have a lot more availability of their instructor doing it that way, a lot more, exponentially more of it because instructor availability than they would have using the traditional model of office hours that you and I started with in our teaching career or that we experienced as students when we were undergraduate students.

Kevin Patton (00:22:48):
So I really strongly recommend that if you’re able to, try to use an online scheduler. Your learning management system may already have something like that built in, or you may have some other tools. So probably the first stop is your instructional design team on your campus. Ask them if they already have something or your campus already has something you can use for online scheduling like that. And if not, I do have a list of online schedulers in the show notes at the episode page. And you can go in there and look through and see. Some of them are free. Some of them cost a little money. The one I use, I use Acuity Scheduling and there is a small fee. But I use it, of course, not just for student office hour appointments, but also for appointments for other kinds of work that I do. It just makes it easier than going back and forth.

Kevin Patton (00:23:40):
“You’re free Tuesday?” “Yeah, but not at this time and this time.” “Well, I’m not available at that.” Instead of doing that, I just say, “Here’s a link. Just go pick a time that works for you.” And then it pops up on my schedule automatically, and it blocks it out so that I won’t schedule something else at that time. So it works really well for me, even beyond that. And you’ll probably find that too, even if you’re just using it at your institution for those meetings that you have with a colleague or somebody else in your department, maybe a supervisor of some sort, maybe somebody that’s on a committee with you somewhere wants to chat with you about something. So offer inclusive office hours.

Sponsored by HAPI

Kevin Patton (00:24:23):
Hey, I hope you didn’t pay anything extra to listen to this podcast because, well, it’s available for free listening almost anywhere you listen to audio. That free distribution of this podcast is sponsored by the Master of Science in Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction, the HAPI degree. As a faculty member of this program at Northeast College of Health Sciences, I get to be one of those sideline coaches as each cohort of diverse learners puts their prior masters and doctoral degrees to a different and expanded use as they explore contemporary, evidence-based strategies to teach all the core concepts of both anatomy and physiology. Check out this online graduate program at northeastcollege.edu/hapi. That’s H-A-P-I. Or click the link in the show notes or episode page.

10. Valuing Diverse Viewpoints

Kevin Patton (00:25:27):
The 10th strategy or tip for increasing inclusiveness in our A&P course is to set expectations for valuing diverse viewpoints. That is have that discussion, get that out there right away that diverse viewpoints are going to be valued. An example would be to maybe try to engage students in a discussion about online communication norms and guidelines.

Kevin Patton (00:25:59):
Now, our institution already has us put in our syllabus something about internet etiquette, and it includes some of these things. And it does get to the idea of valuing different viewpoints and how to appropriately respond to viewpoints that you disagree with or agree with, and how to be professional and polite and all that stuff. But I have found it’s always better to not just leave it at that, and actually have that discussion.

Kevin Patton (00:26:30):
And in that discussion, I think it becomes more inclusive because they will hear you and your tone. And I think that tone is very important. The instructor’s tone that’s saying, “Please, if you have a diverse experience, a diverse viewpoint, a diverse direction you’re coming from at this, we want to hear it. And we’re not going to knock you down. We’re all going to agree. Can we all agree that we’re not going to knock you down because you’re coming at this from a different place than we’re coming at this.”

Kevin Patton (00:27:06):
And once you establish that culture by actually saying it out loud and not just putting it, burying it in the syllabus somewhere, then I think that you’ve set the stage for a much more inclusive environment, a much more inclusive class culture than you would have otherwise.

Kevin Patton (00:27:27):
Another thing that we might want to think about is working together, like collaborate as a group on a list of guidelines, of actual guidelines to say, “Well, okay, here are the guidelines kind of handed down to us from the institution. Are those going to work for us? Or do we want to add something to that? Or do we want to modify that in some way?” And again, you get the buy-in from the students that this is our self-imposed set of guidelines. This is what we’ve agreed to ourselves. These weren’t imposed on us. And once you get that buy-in of these being ours and not their recommendation, then I think it’s all going to work much better.

Kevin Patton (00:28:08):
And I’m just a big fan of collaboration anyway, because I don’t always think of everything. I never think of everything. And so I want to hear some of these other ideas like, “Oh, yeah. Why didn’t I think of that? Let’s add that in there.” And there are even some things like, “Okay, I’ve been doing this for years and nobody’s ever said that. Why haven’t I ever thought about this? Why hasn’t anybody else ever thought about this? That’s great.” So we can do those sorts of things. And they might have issues or concerns that you never even thought about. And you can incorporate that in the discussion.

Kevin Patton (00:28:44):
So tip number 10 is set expectations for valuing diverse viewpoints. When we say set expectations, that is do something active and engaging so that everybody’s buying in to those values of accepting and allowing diverse viewpoints.

11. Inclusive Classroom Demeanor

Kevin Patton (00:29:04):
Well, strategy 11 for developing an inclusive classroom in A&P is to develop an inclusive classroom demeanor or atmosphere or culture learning environment. Now I have long advocated for having a playful atmosphere in our courses. I mean, that goes back to the beginning of this podcast. I’ve been talking about playfulness in its many forms in the classroom and what advantages it has. But I’ve never really talked about it from this angle before. And that is a playful atmosphere or playful learning environment can extend across physical and virtual classrooms or a lab or field trips or wherever. It’s that culture that you build. And I think that playful atmosphere also tends to be inclusive. The more playful an atmosphere it is, the more inclusive it is.

Kevin Patton (00:30:09):
Let me use kind of an analogy. Think of a toddler’s playground, the ideal toddler’s playground, where everyone is playing together, everyone are friends. That’s often the case with toddlers. I mean, there are some issues that can arise and usually it has more to do with whether one’s diaper is full or not. But there are some other things that can creep in there. But in an ideal toddler’s playground, they really haven’t learned to exclude other people yet, for any reason. They just want to play. And anyone that’s there to play is their friend.

Kevin Patton (00:30:46):
And if we can develop that kind of atmosphere where everybody is there to play together, where we can all be friends, no matter where you’re coming from, what you’re coming with, then boy, isn’t that an ideal learning environment and isn’t that an inclusive learning environment? I think that when we are playful, when we are playing together, whether we’re playing with skulls or playing with clay, putting them on bones, or just playing around with the story of the human body, that is going to bind us together in ways that we can’t accomplish using a conscious, intentional technique. In other words, it just happens. We’re not making it happen just by being playful. It does happen.

Kevin Patton (00:31:37):
That’s why I like this idea of an inclusive classroom demeanor, because I’m thinking of it as a playground demeanor, as a playful demeanor, a playful learning environment.

Kevin Patton (00:31:51):
Now, when you have a playful learning environment, when you have a learning environment that is inclusive, I can ask students to tell me when I’m doing something that marginalizes them. Now they may want to do it while we’re doing whatever learning activity it is we’re doing. Or they may want to take me off to the side and tell me, or they may want to tell me during my office hours or contacting me directly or whatever. But the more I establish that kind of environment, where they can do that, then they will do it more often. And I want them to do it more often, because I don’t want to marginalize them and maybe doing something inadvertently, but it’s still going to marginalize them, even if that’s not my intent.

Kevin Patton (00:32:34):
So yeah, I want them to tell me. And not only is that going to help my relationship with that student, and it’s going to help draw that student even closer into being bound to everybody else in class and being included. It’s going to also help me in the future because I’m going to watch out for that kind of mistake again.

Kevin Patton (00:32:53):
Some of this having an inclusive classroom demeanor are just very simple in, well, somewhat obvious things, but they’re always obvious and I’ll explain that part of it in a second. But if I just make a point of facing the class when I’m speaking to them, whether it’s in a lecture or I’m giving them instructions for some kind of learning activity or making an announcement or dismissing class or whatever it is, I want to face them.

Kevin Patton (00:33:24):
Now, this came up in a recent HAPS town hall meeting. I had mentioned that there was a series of HAPS town hall meetings that were on accessibility issues and so on. And we were talking about hearing impairments and so on. And we talked about the fact that you do need to face the class, because there are going to be people who are reading lips. And I’ll tell you what, if I’m in your class, I’ll be one of them.

Kevin Patton (00:33:50):
It’s very difficult for me to follow every part of a conversation when I can’t see the person speaking. It depends on the circumstances. If I’m listening to a podcast or maybe a news report or something on the radio, or on my device, I can usually turn up the volume loud enough. And if there are captions or a transcript, I can look at those and I can catch everything. But if I’m in a classroom or even on a phone call sometimes, depending on what phone I’m using, if I can use my own iPhone, I can crank it up high enough that I can hear. But sometimes I just can’t hear everything. I really do need to see the person speaking. My family often hears me say, “I can’t hear what you’re saying with your hand in front of your mouth.” So they’re like, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.” And then I can understand pretty much everything they say.

Kevin Patton (00:34:48):
And I had a situation many years ago that taught me this lesson before my hearing was impaired enough for me to have to do that. Actually, I almost certainly was doing it, but didn’t realize that I was reading lips.

Kevin Patton (00:35:01):
Anyway, I had this guy in my class. He always sat in the very front row, right in front of me. And we’d chat every once in a while. I got to know him a little bit better maybe than some of the other students who always sat in the back and so on. But anyway, at the end of the semester, he sort of lingered at the final exam. I think he was just being careful. He often did that in class tests and I didn’t think anything of it. And it turns out he was the last one in the classroom.

Kevin Patton (00:35:32):
And he came in, handed in his exam and he said, “I just want to tell you that I really enjoyed this class. I really think I got a lot out of it.” He said, “It looks like I can get a B in class.” I said, “Well, that’s a great grade. I’m glad that you were able to do that.” And he says, “Well, I really think I could have gotten an A, but I didn’t hear a lot of what you said.” And I said, “Really?” I said, “You’re very close to me.” He said, “Well, yeah. That’s why I sat in the front.” He said, “But,” he says, “I don’t know if you know that you do this, but sometimes when you face the whiteboard and are drawing a diagram, you’re talking while you’re drawing the diagram. And I can’t hear you unless I can see you.” And I said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah, I have a hearing impairment. And so I need to do that.”

Kevin Patton (00:36:17):
And I felt so bad. I just, I can still feel that feeling. I can still place myself in that moment because that moment impressed me so much. And not in a good way. That the little things that I do can have big impacts on communication with my students and on whether my students feel included or not.

Kevin Patton (00:36:40):
And I asked him. I said. “I am so sorry, but why didn’t you say something to me?” He says, “Well, I didn’t want to single myself out. And I didn’t want any kind of special treatment. So I just … ” He says that happens to me all the time. Don’t worry about it. And I said to him, “I’m going to worry about it.” I said, “Don’t feel bad that I’m going to worry about it, but I need to do that for me and for my future students to always be careful to face students when I’m talking to them.”

Kevin Patton (00:37:11):
Now, that is a lot easier said than done because not only do I have to remember to do something and break a habit. Breaking habits are hard. Not only did I have to break a habit that I didn’t even know I had, but also I like to walk around the classroom. And sometimes I’ll talk to the whole group while they’re in small groups. So I’ll be in the middle of all these little small groups. And I’ll say, “Can I have your attention for a minute because something came up in this group over here that I think is very useful for all of us to hear about.” And you know what? Some people are facing away from me when that happens. So I have to find ways to make that work.

Kevin Patton (00:37:49):
And there are ways to make that work. It’s not always easy because a lot of our classrooms are set up so that all of the seats are facing in one direction. So if I step past that first row of seats, let’s say it’s a lecture situation and I step past that first row of seats, now everyone in the first row, if they are having difficulty hearing me, they’re going to have to turn around. But when they turn around, they’re going to see the back of my head and they’re not going to be able to watch my lips.

Kevin Patton (00:38:21):
So even though I like to walk all around and interact with different students as the class is given a large lecture, as the class or discussion is going on, I can’t always do that because of the room setup and rooms sometimes they’re set up in a way that you can’t rearrange the seats very easily so that students are facing one another.

Kevin Patton (00:38:43):
So that’s something to think about when we’re designing new classrooms or setting up classroom furniture or labs or things like that. Do we really want everybody facing the front? Maybe in the olden days we did. Maybe that was okay because people with those kinds of challenges, they sort of got sorted out and weren’t coming into our classes. And that is horrible. We want to be a more inclusive kind of educational person and educational environment now. So that’s something that I think we really need to think about.

Kevin Patton (00:39:14):
Something else that’s part of this inclusive classroom demeanor is realizing that not all students are neurotypical and so they may not respond or interact or display emotions like you or I do, or as I might prefer them to do. I might want them to look me in the eye when I’m speaking to them. But some people on the autism spectrum have a really hard time with that. Those that do will often get some help and do some practice to force themselves to look people in the eye. But I think sometimes when they’re doing that, they’re thinking more about looking you in the eye and holding that eye contact than they are really listening to what you’re saying. So, yeah, I’m not so sure that’s the best approach, but that is approach that some students on the autism spectrum take.

Kevin Patton (00:40:11):
But there are other kinds of things like head trauma or other kinds of trauma, emotional trauma, different kinds of emotional or psychological challenges that they have such as PTSD and a whole host of other kinds of issues. And I need to take that into consideration when I interact with students and not tell them to look me in the eye. I’m not going to tell them, “Well, why don’t you ever smile?” I’m not going to do those kinds of things, because what that is doing is it’s challenging their personhood and pushing them away, excluding them. And I want to be inclusive, but I’m being exclusive when I do that.

Kevin Patton (00:40:53):
And that’s not easy because we often in our culture, we have this idea of how people should act in a group, how students should act when they relate to their instructor, how students should act when they relate to each other. And I think there are certain baseline expectations we can have of mutual respect and acceptance and so on, but their actual mannerisms is something that can exclude students. So we want to be inclusive of even very odd mannerisms. And how I just need to be way more flexible than is easy for me to be.

Kevin Patton (00:41:31):
I need to be way more flexible than our undergraduate professors were with us. Although thinking back, I got to say I had a lot of professors as an undergraduate who were very, very, very flexible, and they were some of my best professors. So that kind of gives us a little hint as to how important it is for us to be flexible. If all of my favorite professors, the ones that I really respected and appreciated and taught classes that I felt like I really learned some important stuff and that I retained that learning, or at least some of that learning from those courses, those are the ones that were characterized by flexibility. So that’s even more motivation for me to be more flexible than I naturally would be with my students.

Kevin Patton (00:42:22):
So I need to reconsider any hard deadlines or bans on certain behavior or certain really entrenched restrictions. It’s true, and I’ve mentioned this before. Sometimes there are restrictions that I need to enforce that I just don’t have a choice about, even though I don’t necessarily agree with them, or maybe I do understand why they’re there, but they just rub me the wrong way. One of them being, I am not allowed to have children come into the class. Now in a lab, it’s pretty obvious that there are issues of safety, but in a regular classroom, not so much.

Kevin Patton (00:43:04):
But there are reasons that my institution has for that. And I understand those reasons. But oh man, it would be so helpful. When I was younger, when my kids were younger, there were times when, if I was going to teach that class, I had to bring my kids with me. So I had to make some hard choices and figure things out and so on. And the same is true for students in class where a student may need to bring their child to class or they can’t come to class.

Kevin Patton (00:43:40):
I mean, my hands are tied. I’d love to have them in there. I’d love to do that. I’d love to even include the child in there, but I can’t. And even if I could, there are certain classes where maybe it’s not appropriate, depends on what we’re going to talk about that day, for example, and how old the child is, whether it’s appropriate for us to be talking about this topic or that topic in class while that child is there. So this can get messy. It’s not easy. It’s not black and white. It’s very gray. There’s a spectrum here. So I think if we approach it with kindness and compassion, but also recognizing our responsibilities, eventually the answer may come to us, as difficult as it may be.

Kevin Patton (00:44:30):
But there are some bans and some deadlines and so on that are under our control. For example, a lot of people have very hard restrictions on smartphones or other mobile devices in class. You may not have your phone out. You may not be using your phone. You may not be using your tablet. You may not be using your laptop, computer, whatever that you brought with you. You must not have any of those devices in the class. And there’s a hard ban.

Kevin Patton (00:45:05):
I heard a story and I don’t know … I didn’t follow through far enough to verify it, but I can see it happening. So even if it didn’t really happen, it could still be a true story. And that is apparently someone had their … I think it was an insulin device that had a controller that looked like a smartphone, and it was connected … I mean, there was an actual physical connection to a person’s insulin pump that was in turn connected to their body. And they rested that controller, part of it on their desk. And the instructor walked by and slapped it off the desk because this professor thought it was a iPhone, I guess, or something, a smartphone. And so they knocked it off the desk and it ripped out of that person’s body. I’m sure that that story did not end well.

Kevin Patton (00:45:58):
The point is though that, I mean, that’s an extreme case, I hope it’s not happening a lot, but it gets back to the fact that our devices are now more than just a phone. And yes, they can be a distraction in class. They can be a distraction for the student who has the device and they can be a distraction for the students around that person with a device. Can be also a distraction for us as the instructor, depending on what’s going on in the class that day and what we’re doing at that moment.

Kevin Patton (00:46:28):
But you know what? I will often look at my phone when I’m talking to you. And the reason is because I have a software program on there that helps me hear you better. And even if I’m not using that software program, that is where the controller for my hearing aids are. So I crank up my hearing aids. I adjust my hearing aids until I can finally hear you well. And if I can’t do that, then I’ll switch over to that program and hope that that is going to help me hear you better.

Kevin Patton (00:46:54):
Now on the other end of it, you may be thinking, “Well, he is just checking Facebook. He’s not even listening to what I’m saying to him.” So I think I have a burden as the person using the device to explain what I’m doing so that it makes everyone comfortable. So I need to be inclusive on my end, but on the other end, that person maybe would work better if they give me the benefit of the doubt that that’s not happening.

Kevin Patton (00:47:21):
So applying that to the A&P classroom, if I see a student fiddling with their phone, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re texting their friends about what they’re going to be doing this weekend. It could be. It’s likely that that’s the case and I may have to do some one-on-one counseling with that student and ask them not to do it anymore. But I’m not going to make a blanket ban because it could just as well be someone adjusting their hearing aids or doing some other thing that is appropriate and it has to do with certain challenges they have, certain medical conditions they have, or something like that.

Kevin Patton (00:48:00):
Or it’s not even necessarily a medical condition. I’ve had students that have an at risk family member or friend that they’re an emergency contact for. And I’ve been in that role. I’m in that role right now. Every time a phone or text comes through, I check it as soon as possible because there are people in my life who may have an emergency and I’m the one that they or someone near them is likely to contact. And it may be urgent. I hope it isn’t, but it may be urgent. All of that stuff is more important than our A&P course. I’m sorry. It just is. And so I think we need to rethink some of those things, and think about the fact that these devices are often used for accessibility.

Kevin Patton (00:48:45):
In one of those HAPS town halls we were talking about how some students can use their device to magnify a text or magnify a part of an anatomical model or something so that they can actually see it and see the detail that the other students in class can see without any kind of assistance. So, yeah, that’s important. That’s a learning tool. It’s not always about texting their friends.

Kevin Patton (00:49:12):
So we need to have some flexibility, certainly a flexibility of deadlines. And I really do emphasize deadlines in my course, because it really can mess up a student’s learning. It can mess up my workflow and therefore mess up all kinds of other things in the course when students don’t meet deadlines. I don’t want to have to grade the entire course. It’s not going to work well if I have to grade all of the assignments in the hours before my deadline to submit grades. So yeah, I mean, there’s some of that, but a lot of times the deadlines that we put in there are just about us and about our convenience and about our hassles and so on.

Kevin Patton (00:49:51):
So I put the deadlines out there. I remind everyone why it’s important to meet those deadlines. And I don’t say, “Yeah, but don’t worry about them.” I just say they’re important deadlines, but if you can’t meet a deadline, there’s a real good reason why you can’t meet a deadline or it’s just not going to happen and you don’t have a good reason, but it’s not going to happen, don’t just give up. Call me. Email me. Sign up for my virtual office hours. Communicate with me about it and we’ll see what we can do.

Kevin Patton (00:50:23):
So I signal flexibility without saying, “Ah, they’re there just to kind of give us a benchmark, but I don’t really worry about them.” I’m not going to do that because some people are going to take that as instructions to not follow the deadlines. And that’s not my intent. My intent is to be flexible if for some reason a student isn’t going to make a deadline.

Kevin Patton (00:50:48):
We need to rethink those things too, because, again, a sick family member or a sickness that a person has themselves or some kind of mental health challenge that they have, all kinds of things that can happen in there, all of those things are more important than our course, and we can work around them. And I’ll tell you what, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes that adds more burden to my workload. But that’s okay. That’s what I’m here to do.

Kevin Patton (00:51:19):
My job is not to make my life easiest before I collect my paycheck. And I’ve dealt with people who’ve approached their job that way. I mean, haven’t you had a retail experience where you ask for help maybe selecting a product or even finding the product in that shop or store and people are just like, “Yeah, I don’t know where it is,” and they walk away, or, “I think we’re out of those,” and they walk away. That’s not helpful. Or you’ll ask them, “Which of these is better?” “I don’t know. I’ve never used them. See you.” That’s a horrible customer experience and you walk out of there not wanting to go back again, but also not having accomplished the goals that you have.

Kevin Patton (00:52:00):
Well, our students come to us with goals, with learning goals. They don’t know specifically what those learning goals are yet because we have to show them the way and show them what are the things they need to get out of our course. But they come with a rough idea that they need to get something out of our course. And when they come to us and they have these issues like, “I can’t reach that up there, I can’t get that off the shelf to see whether I want to buy it in a shop,” and somebody says, “No, I can’t reach it either,” and they walk away, that’s not good.

Kevin Patton (00:52:30):
So if a student comes to me and says, “I can’t access this because of this other thing going on in my life or because of a challenge I have or something like that,” and it’s going to take extra work for me to go find that ladder that they need and roll it over there and go up and get it for them because I’m not supposed to let customers climb up on ladders in the store, I’m going to take that extra effort and I’m going to maybe spend a few minutes talking to them about that product. So I’m going to do that in my class too.

Kevin Patton (00:53:03):
Yeah, it takes extra time to do that. And a lot of times I feel very overwhelmed with all of the different things I need to do. I feel like I don’t have time to do the things I really need to do, things that are already on my list of things to do, deadlines I’m trying to meet. And then a student comes to me with something that’s going to take a lot more time.

Kevin Patton (00:53:25):
And what I need to do is choose to take that time with them because that’s my job. My job isn’t for them to all be same little widgets in the class. And if you can’t do it that way, then I’m not going to give you any extra help. That’s not the kind of instructor I want to be. That’s not the kind of person I want to be. And I’m encouraging us to, if we want to have an inclusive classroom, we can’t be that way. We need to be the ones that are willing to go get the ladder, get down the product and talk to them about their product.

Kevin Patton (00:53:59):
Another thing that I want to mention is that if we demonstrate a growth mindset, and that can mean different things to different people and in different contexts. But what I’m talking about here is that having the mindset that any student that comes to us can do better if they work hard and work smart. And what I mean by that is they work in a way that is effective. They do some metacognition. And it’s up to us to help them develop that metacognition, to train them how to do that. I believe it’s up to us to help them do that. Even if they’ve already had some training or practice, we can help them become better at that.

Kevin Patton (00:54:40):
And so if we have a growth mindset where we’re saying, “Yes, whatever your challenges are, however you’ve been marginalized in the past or in other aspects of your life, what I see in you is someone who has the ability to do well in my course. Maybe not ace it and maybe not even pass it, but you’re going to accomplish something in my course and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that you accomplish as much as you can.”

Kevin Patton (00:55:10):
If we have that growth mindset, then we’re going to automatically be inclusive, aren’t we? Because we’re not going to say, “Oh, well that type of student, they don’t usually do get in my class,” or, “This type of student over here, they’re probably not going to do very well because they have this challenge or that background or whatever.” Yeah. Well, having a growth mindset is going to make us inclusive, probably means we don’t have to do any of these other things that I’ve been talking about, because that by itself will do it.

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton (00:55:44):
Marketing support for this podcast is provided HAPS, the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society whose main focus is sharing techniques, insights, and experiences in teaching A&P. Looking for teaching tips and articles outlining research about what works in teaching and learning anatomy and physiology? Well’s check out the HAPS Educator Journal. Want more than that? Well, then I invite you to join us for our regular town hall meetings and our regional and national conferences. And then you can find out why first timers just keep on coming back. Get more information online at theAPprofessor.org/haps. That’s H-A-P-S.

12. Learning from Mistakes

Kevin Patton (00:56:38):
Strategy number 12 in being more inclusive is to learn from my mistakes. And I’ve alluded to this before in this episode, in the previous episode. And there was a way back episode where when the major topic was, how do I deal with mistakes in my teaching of A&P? How do I handle that that works out best for my students and for me? So I’ll put a link to that episode, but my point here is, is that if I don’t continue to learn from my mistakes, I’m not going to become more inclusive.

Kevin Patton (00:57:10):
For example, in a previous segment, I talked about that student with a hearing impairment and he called me out on the fact that I was talking at the board rather than toward the students when I was drawing things on the white board. And so I learned from that mistake and I try to get better and better at not facing away from students when I’m talking to them. So there’s an example of many examples, of many mistakes I’ve made and will continue to make. And I hope that I learn from those mistakes. I am committing to learn from mistakes and be better.

Kevin Patton (00:57:46):
And an area where it’s not so easy for me is mistakes in using inclusive language in our course, because I sometimes get tripped up with what I learned and the way I learned it and just what has become habit for me in language. And once you have a habit in language, it is very often hard to break. Sometimes I get tripped up with using the right pronoun because that’s something that I’m not used to stopping and thinking about before I blurt it out, because until recently I wasn’t aware of some of the issues around pronouns. I wasn’t aware of some of the newer pronouns that are being used by some people. And that’s hard for me. I think it’s hard for a lot of people. And so we’re going to make mistakes, but I’m going to learn from those mistakes and do better in the future.

Kevin Patton (00:58:37):
So if we don’t learn from our mistakes in using inclusive language, for example, or in facing students when we’re talking to them, for example, then we’re not going to make our course fully accessible and fully inclusive.

13. Suggest a Different Instructor

Kevin Patton (00:58:56):
Strategy 13 for making our course more inclusive is to consider sending students to another instructor if they’re not doing well in our course. Now that sounds weird. And I know I’m really … You know how I flirt with the edges of the mainstream and maybe the edges of reality sometimes. But I think that’s a good thing. And I’ve had cases where I’m not saying shove a student out the doors. “I can’t help you. Out you go. Sign up for somebody else’s class.” I don’t mean that. What I mean is help them. If you have really tried your best to help that student and that student has engaged with you and they’ve tried their best to work with you in becoming successful and it’s just not working, it may be that they’ll connect better with a different instructor than you. For whatever reason that may be out of your control, may be in your control, but for whatever reason, it just might be the best outcome.

Kevin Patton (00:59:58):
That was one of the first lessons I learned in animal training. I’ve mentioned in previous episodes that I have a background in wild animal training. And one of my early experiences was training sea lions for a sea lion show. And I was given responsibility of teaching a new sea lion who would eventually be worked into the larger show. Her name was Yvonne, Yvonne, the sea lion. And the head trainer who was teaching me how to train just wasn’t having … had gotten to a certain point of training that sea lion, where it just wasn’t going anywhere. Yvonne just didn’t want to engage with that trainer anymore. And we couldn’t figure out why. And he said, “Well, this isn’t working for me anyway. It’s a good idea that you have your own sea lions to work with and you start trying out these techniques of training.”

Kevin Patton (01:00:54):
And so he handed Yvonne over to me. Well, he handed the bucket of fish over to me. And Yvonne went with the bucket of fish. And Yvonne and I got along great. And we did very well together. And it wasn’t because I was some super duper trainer because my boss, he was, was and still is this super duper trainer. He’s retired from animal training now, but still considered globally to be one of the best ever in the business. So it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that he wasn’t good at. It was just that there was some connection that I had with Yvonne that he wasn’t able to maintain. I don’t know what it is, but it worked.

Kevin Patton (01:01:34):
That’s an initial kind of analogy. I mean, although it was actual teaching, which is not with a human. But I had another thing that happened early in my career as well, and that was where I had a student who came to me twice for A&P 1 and could not pass A&P 1. Well, I think she passed with a D maybe or something like that, but that’s not obviously the grade that was going to get her ready further in her goals.

Kevin Patton (01:02:05):
I worked with her and worked with her and worked with her probably as much or more than any other student in my entire career. And she really did want to succeed. She wasn’t being lazy. She wasn’t intentionally doing things wrong. She was taking my advice and really trying things and it just wasn’t working. And she did better the second time than the first time, but still didn’t make the grade that she needed to make. And she came to me and she says, “I don’t know what to do. Should I just give up on my dreams? Should I … What are my options here?”

Kevin Patton (01:02:38):
And I said, “Well, I’m not the only one that teaches A&P 1. You don’t have to come back to me.” I said, “Here’s a colleague that I have that I think he does things a little bit differently, not a lot differently, but a little bit differently than me. His students seem to really like him. So I think, it hasn’t worked with me. You’ve gotten a little bit better and I welcome you back into my class and I’ll do what I can to get you a little bit further along for your third try, but why don’t you try this other guy?” And so she did.

Kevin Patton (01:03:10):
I did see her in the hallway sometimes and she said it was going pretty good, but you never know how it’s going to turn out. And then I kind of lost track over until after the end of the semester. And then we went on break, came back, and I started another course. And we were, I don’t know, it was like our second or third time that we were meeting with my new group of students and the classroom had been locked. So all my students were waiting out in the hall. And I came in, unlocked the door.

Kevin Patton (01:03:45):
And as I’m unlocking the door, this previous student came up to me. And as I’m going through the motions of unlocking the door and opening it, and all my other students are standing around watching and listening to this interaction, she said, “I am so grateful to you.” And I thought, “Oh, well, this is nice, that my new students are hearing a former student is grateful to me.” But I was a little puzzled because I knew that this former student hadn’t done so well. And she said, “I am so glad you told me to stop taking your A&P course and go into this other professor’s A&P course, because I’m doing so much better in their course in years.” And the students I looked around, they’re just like looking with wide eyes, and I’m like, “Oh no.”

Kevin Patton (01:04:33):
So anyway, sometimes that can backfire a little bit, except it didn’t backfire for that student. And really that’s what’s important, right? Is that student was able to be successful because they connected better with this other person. I don’t know why. The other professor is a great guy and a very personable fellow. And he and I were friends. So I can see how a person could connect easily with that other professor. But it was just one of those things that that was the key to that student success, or one of the keys, at least. Now, it could be that it was their third try and that had a lot to do with it. But I think a lot of it had to do with the difference in connection.

Kevin Patton (01:05:16):
And we all have different styles and different approaches. And that’s one reason I’m not a fan of instructors being required to use the same syllabus, the same schedule, the same assignments, the same … The next thing will be, we all have to dress alike and so on if we’re teaching the same course. And I know that makes it easier for deans and vice presidents and accreditation, visiting teams and so on if everything is lockstep the same. But I think that’s bad for learning. I think it’s bad for teaching. I think it’s bad for inclusiveness. Because we don’t have any choices now. Everything is the same.

Kevin Patton (01:05:59):
So if it doesn’t work for you, going to another class where things are done differently doesn’t exist. There is no class where things are done differently. And it also means you can’t experiment with things and you can’t do some of the strategies I’ve recommended here that increase inclusiveness.

Kevin Patton (01:06:17):
Okay, I’m off on a rant here. Let’s pull back and come back to inclusiveness here. I think it negatively impacts inclusiveness by not providing that variety and flexibility that I think is key to having an inclusive course. I think we should encourage professors to be unique in their approach.

Kevin Patton (01:06:38):
Now, that’s not for the faint of heart, because like I said, administrators don’t like that. They don’t like variations. They want things to all be the same. And I think part of it is students don’t always understand that variety. So they’ll say, “Well, that’s not fair. In our course we’re having 10 tests. And in the same course, this other section taught by this other professor that they only have three tests. And I don’t want to have 10 tests. I want to have three tests, but I can’t go at that time. So that’s wrong.”

Kevin Patton (01:07:10):
Well, I mean, I can understand a student’s perspective, but they’re not here for tests, are they? They’re here to learn. And if one instructor finds that using 10 tests works in their course, and another instructor finds that three tests works in their course, why can’t we do that? Why can’t we take the time and effort to explain to students what’s going on rather than just saying, “I don’t want to hear any more of those complaints. So you both have to work out. You’re both going to use the same number of tests.” I mean, I just don’t think that’s an elegant solution to that. That’s not the best solution to that.

Kevin Patton (01:07:50):
We also have to consider that we can’t always send a student to another instructor. You may be the only choice. That might be the only section, or maybe you teach all the sections of that course. So what are you going to do? Well, try to be more flexible, try to change some other things. Maybe see if that student can get a tutor or get into a study group, or yet where some connections can be made in addition to the connections with you and with other students that are ready in the course, and maybe that’ll be helpful.

Kevin Patton (01:08:19):
Another thing to consider here then is to be as flexible and inclusive as you can be to reach all students. But sometimes they need a different instructor.

14. Many Challenges Are Invisible

Kevin Patton (01:08:33):
Tip number 14 for being more inclusive in our A&P course is to remember that I often cannot see challenges or disabilities. Many challenges or disabilities are invisible to me. I can’t see them. For example, my own hearing impairment is invisible to most people. Now it becomes visible if I have to do something to make it visible. For example, if I ask you to repeat things and that continues on, you might start to get the hint that I have a hearing impairment.

Kevin Patton (01:09:09):
Now, the hearing aids that I wear aren’t easily visible, but they are visible. So you may notice those and understand that I have a hearing impairment. I may tell you I have a hearing impairment. I’ve found that that’s actually a good strategy. A lot of people don’t want to hear about it, and I’m sorry for that. But I usually say it so that people are aware that I’m going to be hounding them to repeat things.

Kevin Patton (01:09:37):
And by the way, if anybody asks you to repeat things, please, when you repeat it, repeat it back louder, repeat it back slower, and enunciate things a little bit more clearly than maybe you would in ordinary casual conversation. And that is very helpful. Then you won’t get so many, so many requests to repeat it over and over because each time we’re only going to catch a little bit more than we caught the last time if you say it exactly the same way again. Anyway, there’s a free tip for you there. And I think it’s one I’ve given you before.

Kevin Patton (01:10:14):
But anyway, there are many other kinds of impairments that aren’t visible. For example, autism spectrum. What used to be called Asperger syndrome is at one end of the autism spectrum that’s usually called high functioning autism spectrum. And so a person, it depends on the person, but there may not be any overt signs, at least not at first that that person has a different way of thinking. They’re not neurotypical. They might have some other kind of neuro atypical situation going on, such as attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or they might have a brain injury. I’ve had a number of students with brain injuries that you wouldn’t know that at first. And luckily at least some of them have identified themselves to me and helped me understand specifically what they had issues with.

Kevin Patton (01:11:08):
I had one, for example, who really had a problem with balance because of the brain injury. And so I had to be very careful with my slides, not to put any motion on my slides because that could throw this person into a state of vertigo just by having a bullet point fly in from the slide and so on. I would’ve never thought of that, but it happens. So now I try, I always think of that. That was years ago. And I always think of that.

Kevin Patton (01:11:37):
Other kinds of things. Now, there may be other students I’ve had with brain injuries. They never self-identified. And I continued to do things that excluded them. If you take those things into consideration and include students, you have a more inclusive course and it’s better for everybody. There are various learning disabilities and reading disabilities that are not immediately visible, various psychiatric and other mental health conditions that are not immediately visible. Seizure disorders are not visible until and unless a person has a seizure in your presence. Tourette syndrome. I mean, the list goes on and on and on.

Kevin Patton (01:12:17):
There are a lot of people with autoimmune disorders where they’ll have a day where they’re fine and the next day they’re barely mobile. They can hardly move around, for example, in rheumatoid arthritis and in lupus and some other autoimmune disorders. And so you think to yourself, “Well, that person’s perfectly capable of doing this activity. I saw them do it yesterday.” Well, yeah, but today they may not be able to. So they’re …

Kevin Patton (01:12:42):
I mean, I’m not going to keep going on because that could be another long rant and I don’t want it to be, but my point is that I need to keep continually reminding myself that what I see when I see a student is not anywhere close to the entire picture, and I need to be more open and less judgemental about what I think their abilities are, what their challenges are, what their limitations are.

15. Practice Love

Kevin Patton (01:13:12):
I know. You thought we’d never get here, the last one of my tips for being more inclusive and having a more inclusive anatomy and physiology course. And here it is, number 15, the last one, it’s the best one. It’s the one that informs all the rest of them, and that is practice love. If we strive to maintain compassion and empathy and kindness in our courses, in our interactions with students, in our interactions with peers, when we’re designing our course, when we’re putting together our syllabus, when we’re putting together our course resources, if our primary goal is to love our students, that is to be compassionate, to be empathetic, to be kind to them, then that will motivate us to find the ways that we can remove barriers and ways that we can actively pull students into our learning community.

Kevin Patton (01:14:17):
If we maintain a culture of love in our course, that will allow students to be themselves because they’ll know that they’ll be accepted for who they are and where they are on life’s journey. And no matter what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Kevin Patton (01:14:36):
I like to think to myself, “If this was my family member or my friend or me as a college student, how would I interact with this student or with this class?” And I’ll tell you that technique works especially well when dealing with challenging behavior. Before reacting, I stop and think, “What if this were my family member? What if this were my friend? What if this were me? When I’m having difficulty and I’m maybe acting out in a way that I wouldn’t ordinarily act out or wouldn’t like, how would I want to be treated? What would be the most effective solution here, the most effective reaction to have?”

Kevin Patton (01:15:24):
So if I sort of think about that, think about the fact that this is a person who deserves love and kindness, then that’s going to inform my actions and hopefully I’m going to react in a way that is inclusive and is not going to exclude that student. Of all the inclusive practices that we can try to bring into our teaching, even those beyond those that I’ve mentioned in this episode or the previous episode, by far the greatest and best practice is love.

Staying Connected

Kevin Patton (01:16:01):
As I’ve already mentioned, this is the second of two episodes exploring ways that we can promote an inclusive atmosphere in our courses. If you got anything at all out of either or both of these episodes, will you please return the favor by mentioning them to a colleague. Just go to theAPprofessor.org/refer to get a personal share link that you can give your friend to get them started listening. And I always have links to additional resources. If you don’t see links in your podcast player, go to the show notes at the episode page at theAPprofessor.org/109. And while you’re there, you can claim your digital credential for listening to this episode.

Kevin Patton (01:16:48):
That badge will help you keep track of your professional development experiences, and it’ll show others that you really do care about growing as an effective and inclusive A&P professor. And you’re always welcome to call in with your questions, comments and ideas. Hit the podcast hotline. That’s 1-833-LION-DEN, 1-833 546 6336, or send a recording, a written message to podcast@theAPprofessor.org. And you’re invited to join my private A&P teaching community way off the social platforms at theAPprofessor.org/community. I’ll see you down the road.

Aileen (01:17:43):
The A&P Professor is hosted by Dr. Kevin Patton, an award-winning professor and textbook author in human anatomy and physiology.

Kevin Patton (01:17:54):
This is a warning. Listening to this episode may cause permanent changes in your brain.

Health Information Statement

Kevin Patton (01:18:12):
We’re living in strange times, aren’t we? There’s a lot of health misinformation and disinformation coming at us from all directions. As science faculty, we have an obligation to promote only evidence-based information and critical analysis. Let’s all help each other keep everyone safe and healthy.

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Last updated: August 27, 2023 at 14:34 pm

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