How to Improve Engagement with Dissections

Many biology classes still use dissections as a way for students to learn anatomical structures.   There are also many virtual labs available if instructors don’t have access to real specimens or lab materials.   One of the problems I have encountered during dissections is determining whether students have actually located the structures they were supposed to find.  Lab guides, like the Frog Dissection Guide have checklists for students to work through, but in large classes it may be difficult to make assessments on whether your students have actually identified the structures.  A simple solution is to have students use colored pins to indicate each structure in the lab manual.    On the board, write a list (it can be abbreviated) of major structures that should be pinned with an associated color.   This allows you to quickly move from station to station and determine if the students have remained on task and found the structures.

For example in the photo, students have pinned the Sheep Brain to indicate each of the structures:

Midbrain:  White
Pons:  Green
Medulla Oblongata:  Red
Spinal Cord:  Black

brain-pinned

Pins can be purchased from department stores or from Amazon and  are fairly cheap. They can also be used to set up a lab practical where students are tested over their knowledge of structures.  A lab practical over the frog might ask students to identify the structures pinned with red and blue.

frog test

 

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