Anatomy and Physiology Practice for Student Mastery Blog Feature
Sarah Layton

By: Sarah Layton on June 23rd, 2015

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Anatomy and Physiology Practice for Student Mastery

Anatomy and Physiology | Health Science

Are your students struggling to master anatomy and physiology content? Maybe all they need is a little anatomy and physiology practice!

My niece, a nursing student, recently told me that she needs to take her anatomy and physiology course again.


She just didn't quite make it through the first time. She really struggled with the unfamiliar terms and just the pure volume of content that must be mastered in your typical A&P course. She's concerned about moving forward until she masters A&P.

The struggle to master anatomy and physiology curriculum

It turns out my niece is not alone. Health science teachers tell me nearly every week how their students struggle with anatomy and physiology.


Well, let's take a minute to think about how teachers and students often approach this topic.

Let’s say you have a list of 50 A&P vocabulary words. There will be a test, at the end of the semester, a few months from now. What technique would you and your students use to master those words?

anatomy and physiology practiceThe traditional pattern is to study a topic, move on to the next chapter, cram, and then take the exam. The first problem is that students move on before they have really mastered the content.

The second problem is that cramming doesn’t help with lifelong learning. Those words aren’t going to impact their daily lives.

They are going to put in the minimum effort required for learning, which probably means waiting until the last minute and then cramming. And cramming has a bad reputation, but it is an effective technique, to improve test performance.

Unfortunately, the information you cram into your brain doesn’t stick around long.

Back to the list of words – What if knowing these vocabulary words are critical to your students' successes in education and careers?

Anatomy and physiology falls into this category for health science students. It’s not enough to pass the test at the end of the semester. Students need to master the subject in order to perform in other courses and during their careers.

Anatomy and physiology practice based on proven theories

Two theories that may help students with mastering A&P content are the spacing effect and the testing effect.

In a amplifire paper, the spacing effect is described this way:

"Discoveries in the field of cognitive psychology have shown that incorporating the methodology of spacing - spacing learning out over optimal intervals of time - has been shown to produce significant upticks in student knowledge acquisition and retention. In psychology, this phenomenon is called the “Spacing Effect."

The spacing effect says that many study sessions, spread out over time, is the most effective way to improve long term memory. describes the testing effect this way:

"The Testing Effect is the well-established psychological effect that the mere act of testing someone’s memory will strengthen the memory, regardless of whether there is feedback."

Like cramming, testing also has something of a negative flavor these days. But it is actually an effective learning tool. The testing effect states that the act of recalling information during a test strengthens our ability to recall that information in the future.

Students need a deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology. You can help them by combining the principles of the spacing effect and the testing effect into one anatomy and physiology practice feature such as the one we provide in HealthCenter21

Students can take lots of short tests, spread out over time, to help them with anatomy and physiology practice recall. The test results can also show students what they need to review. You could think of it as formative assessment.

Daily anatomy and physiology quizzes

anatomy and physiology practiceHealthCenter21 now includes a feature that provides students with daily anatomy and physiology quizzes.

Students are presented with an option to take a 10 question challenge quiz each day.

They take the quiz, even if they haven’t yet studied the material. They continue taking the tests, even after they have studied the material.

The theory is they will have a better mastery of anatomy and physiology by the end of the course. And not just cramming for a test mastery, but ongoing recall ability to carry them into more difficult health science courses and later into their careers.

Instructors will have access to reports that compare performance for individual students to the course and nation. Teachers can use the data to see where students need additional help. Here's just a quick snapshot of student performance over a short period of time:

anatomy and physiology practice


Even with a small test period, the results show that this daily anatomy and physiology practice is helping students improve!

Anatomy and physiology curriculum that works

And what do teachers think about the Anatomy & Physiology module in HealthCenter21? Keep in mind that it includes more than just the daily anatomy and physiology practice!

There is so much more...engaging curriculum, lesson plans, teacher guides, study guides, PowerPoint presentations, automatically graded quizzes and tests and more.

Sue Ellen Shealy of Gilbert High School in South Carolina believes the curriculum is challenging and always provides the most up-to-date information, unlike textbooks that can often reflect older methods for skills and information (such as CPR guidelines that are changed frequently).

She loves the instructor resources with lesson plans, lesson handouts, and presentations. The students can move through lessons at their own pace and can reset lessons as many times as they wish in order to obtain mastery of the content.

She feels like the questions on quizzes and tests require students to think and are designed to reflect the way that students will be tested on tests such as nurse aid exams and NCLEX for nurses.

There is also always someone there to assist either via phone, email, or online chat and issues are resolved quickly when students have trouble logging in. "We love HC21 and AES!"

If your students are struggling with curriculum mastery, give some thought to adding some kind of anatomy and physiology practice to your students' daily routines!

Want to learn more about the HealthCenter21 Anatomy & Physiology curriculum?

Check out the module in our catalog:

View the Anatomy & Physiology Curriculum


About Sarah Layton

Sarah is a contributing author to the AES blog. She is committed to helping instructors and students succeed both in and out of the classroom.