Updated: Apr 2
Students learn at different rates, but classes can only move at one rate.
This is the fundamental problem with university level anatomy and physiology courses and an unavoidable consequence of the structure of our education system. Anatomy and physiology are challenging disciplines, and like with any complex technical subject, it’s essential to have a complete understanding of the fundamental concepts before moving on to more challenging topics. Without a solid foundation in these topics, true learning will be impossible and one can only hope to memorize disjointed pieces of information absent of context or unifying principles. That’s why intervention is necessary as soon as it becomes apparent that a student has yet to master these principles. Unfortunately, many if not most institutions lack the resources to conduct these interventions for every student who needs them. I’ve heard of introductory A&P classes having upwards of 700 (!) students, and there’s simply no way for a professor or instructional team to meet the needs of that many individuals. The fewest resources are made available at precisely the time when students need the most help.
This is when the benefits of a private tutor become apparent. If a student doesn’t have a strong understanding of the topics covered on the first exam, then they won’t be able to make meaningful progress in the course. Subsequent topics build directly on these concepts, and without understanding them it would be like trying to add height to a building with an unstable foundation – sooner or later the structure will collapse. In a perfect world, an instructor would work with that student right away and not move on until the student demonstrates thorough understanding of the fundamental concepts. But the show must go on. An instructor only has a few months to cover a wide range of topics, and exams and labs must adhere to a schedule that has no flexibility built into it. Without the resources to swim, students have no choice but to tread water in the hopes they can survive to reach the shore. Even if they make it, a student would still lack the confidence and ability to enter more challenging waters represented by higher level courses which will be required for those on a pre-health professions track. A private tutor can provide the benefit of extending a lifeline while teaching the student how to swim independently and with confidence.
Just because a student doesn’t grasp a concept right away doesn’t mean that they’re unable to understand the concept at all. There’s nothing wrong with not understanding something unfamiliar the first time you encounter it; this is perfectly normal and is to be expected. Not only do students learn at different rates, but some may have learning disabilities and require extra attention that instructors may not be able to give. On the other hand, a private tutor can work with students to develop study plans and strategies that will help them get caught up. Another important benefit is that tutors can share techniques for how to study and remember, which is especially important for anatomy and physiology. Instructors are charged with teaching you what you need to know, but there’s very little, if any focus on how to go about studying effectively and efficiently. Again, students are left to their own devices with no guidance. A private tutor can provide you the benefit of this guidance.
I’d like to talk specifically about how this looks in relation to anatomy and physiology.
Before learning how organ systems work, a student must understand some of the basic principles governing how the body is organized, what components form the body, and how the substances needed to sustain life move from one area of the body to another. The good news is that when they’re broken down into their basic elements, understanding these foundational topics doesn’t require technical scientific knowledge or training. For example, a student should understand that a cell is the fundamental building block of life – organisms are composed primarily of cells (plus some stuff in between them) just as a building is made out of bricks bound together by mortar. A cell is like a living organism in miniature and has a life cycle exactly like one we might describe for a person – it comes into existence, it grows, it absorbs nutrients and expels wastes, it reproduces, and ultimately dies. Cells perform a function in the body and are comprised of parts that work together to fulfill this function and keep the cell alive. In the end that’s all it boils down to, and no previous knowledge of biology or chemistry is necessary to understand this. A student can gain confidence and feel a sense of accomplishment upon receiving the reassurance that they understand these basic ideas. They can then build on this confidence to fill in the more technical details which can always be related back to the fundamentals they’ve mastered.
But this process can take time – time that your professor or lecturer may not have. A private tutor can give you the personalized attention you need and spend however much time is necessary for you to understand a concept. Hiring a private tutor is an investment in your future – your future as a doctor, nurse, vet, dentist, or any health care professional. There’s no shame in seeking help from a private tutor. When it comes to anatomy and physiology, you simply can’t afford to fall behind. A tutor is there to help get you caught up and become independent in your studies; a tutor can guide you towards this goal by helping you to understand something you may be stuck on, or maybe more importantly, to help you believe that you can understand it. Ultimately you must put in the time and it’s not going to be easy, but enlisting the help of a private tutor can provide valuable rewards in your academic, personal, and professional life.
If you’ve never worked with a private tutor before and would like to know more about it, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to answer any questions and to discuss how I can help position you for success in your anatomy and physiology course.