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Author Q&A: Anatomy & Physiology, 11th Edition

Written with a conversational, storytelling writing style in mind to make learning easier for students, Anatomy & Physiology, 11th Edition uses a clear, easy-to-read approach to tell the story of the human body’s structure and function. Designed for two-semester courses, this award-winning text includes A&P Online with Netter 3D Anatomy with interactive animations and interactive exercises to make learning even easier.

In this Q&A, authors Kevin Patton, Frank Bell, Terry Thompson, and Peggie Williamson share why it is essential for students to fully understand A&P concepts for students’ healthcare careers, and how their new edition and accompanying resources make it easier for students to learn these concepts.


What skills do you think will be most important for students to learn in anatomy and physiology and for their healthcare careers?

Students need to understand the overall story of the body, including those core concepts that are part of nearly every segment of that story.  If learners can understand the storyline and how all the core concepts connect the various elements of the story of the body, then they can continue to fill in additional information and applications as they progress through their clinical program and begin their careers. In a nutshell, the A&P course provides the basics of understanding the body that acts as a foundation upon which each student can build as they construct their own conceptual framework and skillset.

What do you hope faculty and students take away from your title?

Anatomy & Physiology, 11th Edition, is optimized to help students reach learning outcomes aligned with the recently updated HAPS learning outcomes by using a storytelling approach. In short, learners will read the story of human structure and function told throughout the chapters of the textbook. That story is reinforced by the large array of learning hints and tools that help students form connections to build their conceptual framework—a “big picture” of the story of the body.

The layout, text, activities, and other components of the book were carefully developed to not only motivate “reading” the book but also encourage “raiding” it for important concepts as they are needed during and after the course. This makes our textbook a useful tool throughout any student’s health professions program and into their clinical practice.

How does the integration of online tools through Evolve enhance the content of the book?

The Evolve Resources integrated with this edition are carefully designed and chosen to help students see the connections that they need to see to fully understand, then apply, the concepts of human structure and function. For example, each of the new Active Concept Maps walks students through a web of connected concepts. These narrated, animated activities not only help students see specific connections but also help them map out concepts for themselves. Exclusive to our textbook is the growing collection of brief online articles that allow students to “surf” to interesting stories and images that enhance their understanding of anatomy and physiology. The large variety of Evolve Resources also provide students opportunities to reinforce their learning with audio, visual, written, and interactive strategies.

How have you seen this field change over the years?

Anatomy and physiology as a field has benefitted from the many insights coming to us from the learning scientists who study how humans read, learn, understand, and remember. We continue to apply strategies suggested by those insights to our teaching and to this textbook.

Our exclusive library of online Connect It! articles engage curious students by providing interesting additional information and images that include updated current science, clinical applications, cutting-edge research, and even scientific controversies. Linked to multiple chapters, these articles also help students see how core concepts are interwoven into the workings of all the different parts of the body.

We are also seeing a big shift in the use of terminology. For example, eponyms (terms named after people) are being replaced by clearer, descriptive terms that do not carry any historical biases or other baggage. Likewise, the discipline has started adopting more inclusive language and ways of looking at what it is to be human from the biological perspective.

Going into the 11th edition, what were essential changes your team wanted to focus on?

We started with a mission statement and a list of values that guided us through the entire revision process. There were multiple aspects that we wanted to improve and strengthen. Inspired by the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), we worked hard to make our writing and organization within chapters even more clear, conversational, and easy to understand for all learners.

We put a lot of time and effort into making sure our art, photographs, medical images, and graphs support and enhance the visual literacy required of students in the health professions. Students using this textbook will improve in their ability to interpret, navigate, and find meaning from information in the images as they explore and use our illustration program.

We redoubled our efforts to provide a book with diverse representations of the human body and language sensitive to the full spectrum of human structure, function, and identity. We reevaluated each use of terms such as normal and disorder to avoid excluding variations within the range of healthy human biology. We likewise carefully evaluated our language to eliminate biased or otherwise problematic or potentially harmful usages. Many contemporary scientific terms, unfortunately, have such concerns—and we did our best to mitigate them. This is an evolving aspect of scientific communication and we have probably made some mistakes and overlooked some opportunities. We are, however, committed to continuing this process and improving as we go forward.

Why was it important to include guided 3D learning modules to accompany this title?

The amazing 3D virtual anatomy tools that are now available can be overwhelming to a beginning A&P learner—and their teacher. We often give our students access to virtual human bodies to explore without enough guidance, so students get overwhelmed and discouraged before they have a chance to start exploring. By adding some guided explorations in specific topics, students see how such explorations are done—what to look for and how to get there. By using a few of these guided modules, while students are engaged in self-directed learning and self-test review, they become more engaged and more willing and able to go off exploring on their own. The modules can also be used to help instructors learn to personalize and incorporate the 3D learning tool into their lectures, labs, and other learning activities.

What advice would you give faculty teaching in this field?

We think A&P faculty reach their greatest potential when they stay connected with each other. Organizations such as the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS), American Association for Anatomy (AAA), and American Physiology Society (APS) have strong, overlapping networks of A&P faculty from all kinds of institutions. The A&P Professor Community is a new, small-scale online community that often attracts those who don’t want to be part of a big organization or participate in big conferences. When A&P faculty make such connections, they’ll soon see how important it is to keep up with learning science, swap ideas and solutions with each other, and get that human support that we all need when teaching a difficult but important course.

We also advise A&P faculty to continue developing their understanding of the role of the textbook in a course and the best ways to help their students use the textbook appropriately. Most students don’t know how to use an A&P textbook. They simply read a chapter through without using any of the built-in tools to help them understand what they are reading.

Likewise, many instructors are not sure whether they need to cover everything from the textbook in their course. They may not realize that textbooks are meant to fit just about any course like a mitten—not a glove. That is, there is “extra” content in the book to provide context for the required concepts and to provide the “wiggle room” that allows instructors to customize course content for their program—or as their course evolves from semester to semester.