The exercises that are presented in our modules were developed
with three goals in mind:
1. To expose students to hands-on active learning modules
using an analogy-based approach.
2. To help students link body systems in ways that highlight
their interactions using anatomy models of skull, head
muscles, and pipe cleaners as cranial nerves.
3. To evaluate student learning and gather student responses concerning the ease and effectiveness of these learning activities.
Instructional Methods: Use of
Analogies can be powerful teaching tools because they can make
new material intelligible to students by comparing it to material that
is already familiar (Orgill & Bodner, 2004). Analogy provides a conceptual framework on which new information can be absorbed and
assimilated. Effective use of analogy in laboratory activities provides
a successful strategy to help students understand structures and
processes that are often foreign to everyday experiences. Instructors
frequently make the mistake of expecting their students to easily
understand complex information that we have accepted as common
knowledge. We must have high expectations for our students
(Wong & Wong, 2005), but we as instructors must present the
information in ways our students can effectively process it.
Materials and Methods
The four modules introduce students to the relevant anatomy of
the skull, facial and neck musculature, and cranial nerves that
innervate the muscles. The skull, through this on-going narrative,
is compared to a city, the city of “Brainington,” which is the capital
of the country “Humaneous Anatomeous.” The structure and function of each body system is explained in terms of city services. This
comparison, despite the limitations of analogy, will help learners
assimilate new concepts more effectively.
The first module introduces the skull; students identify the
cranial bones, their locations, and their features. The second
module introduces students to pertinent functional brain areas
and the cranial nerves that innervate the facial muscles, including
each nerve’s origin and pathway through the skull. The third
module explains the musculature of the skull as well as the
muscles’ functions. The fourth module links the first three modules in relation to particular cranial nerve functions such as winking, smiling, and frowning. Normally one week prior to the
relevant lab sessions, these modules are posted in an online platform for the students to submit their finished work as an extra
credit assignment before coming to the relevant lab sessions.
The modules supplement the required pre-lab study, which is
based on the lab manual (Marieb & Smith, 2016).
This series of lab activities is used to reinforce and enhance
what is learned in lecture. Students are exposed in lecture to the
basic anatomy and physiology of the skeletal system; in lab they
identify the bones making up the cranium. Likewise, they focus,
in lecture, on the muscles of the face and neck as a component
of the unit on the muscular system, and identify the major muscles
of the face and the neck in lab. The Brainington activity is included
as a part of the lab work associated with the Central Nervous System and is completed as an aid in learning the structure and function of the cranial nerves. In addition, the Brainington activity
affords students the opportunity to review the skeletal and muscular anatomy of the region and to explore the structural and functional connections that exist between structures. These activities
are completed both at home and in lab. In lab, students access
the human skull, torso, and brain models. Relating anatomical
structures on models to the diagrams from their textbooks help
them build a 3D perspective of the body. The Brainington student
handouts for all four modules can be accessed through this link:
The City of Brainington: Module 1—Skeletal System
This module guides students to identify cranial bone markings in
terms of the Brainington analogy. The city of Brainington is surrounded and protected by a sturdy wall composed of plates of cranial
bone, collectively known as the skull. The skull provides effective protection for the city and its inhabitants. There are a series of openings in
the wall to allow for the passage of vital structures. In this module we
will explore those openings in the skull, especially those that provide
passageways for the twelve pairs of cranial nerves. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. Frontal view of cranial bones. An exercise example
of Module 1: Students are given key words to match the
numbered cranial bone markings (Marieb & Smith, 2016).