Grading is Learning

I hope you had a nice weekend. I was grading! Wow, it took me all weekend to grade your unit 2 quizzes. Something about the scrolling and scoring in open-ended questions in Canvas is a laborious process. I used to have auto-graded quizzes but I learn a lot more about you and what needs to be reviewed and about anatomy and physiology in general when I hand-grade the quizzes. I am reading a book called Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. by Peter C. Brown. It describes a century of education research indicating that practicing spaced retrieval and elaboration on the basic conceptual outline are the primary ways that you learn, really learn the material and exercise your brains in the ways that encourage memory retention and strong neural connections for recall. Reading the textbook twice does not help!

Imagine the learning for me. That was the longest quiz and there are 15 of you and so 56 questions, 15 times, I have that quiz memorized. Completely memorized. It was interesting to be reading (listening to) this book while grading this weekend. I was fascinated by it and somewhat commended as the quiz itself represents the practice they promote in the book (unbeknownst to me before all this started).

Before all of this learning for me, my main goal was to make the quiz a lengthy and laborious enough process to ensure that you would spend at least that much time reviewing the material.  In addition, I wanted the quiz to represent a learning experience, just as the discussions are a learning experience. This is why there are video questions, etc. As some of you have figured out, but not all of you surprisingly, reading the textbook is key to efficient success in these quizzes.

Now, after finishing the book and the grading, I see the principles of spaced retrieval practice and elaboration well-illustrated in the quiz grading experience. I managed to push all 56 questions into my long-term memory by grading a couple of quizzes at a time between hockey, birthday parties, cleaning up the garden, and all the tasks of parenting. I never spent more than an hour at a time on grading but I got it done through about a dozen contacts with my computer.

You should learn from this. What if your job was to grade everyone’s quiz? You would learn much more! Likewise, if you engage in all the ways the textbook allows you to engage, the quiz will not be the first time you see the material. Likewise, if you engage in discussion frequently you will encourage your mind to learn the material deeply.

I love the analogy presented in the book because I do academic research on natural land recreation trails. When you learn something for the first time, it is like walking in a forest to an interesting tree. The path you create will disappear almost as soon as your foot rises to take the next step. But, if you come to that tree in the forest repeatedly, your tread will wear in a path that will become visible on the forest trail. Eventually, you will know the forest so well, you can get to special places using a number of paths.

Imagine the forest is your brain. It is teeming with amazing knowledge but it is just a forest until you make the pathways that help you retrieve and link together the knowledge you gain through life’s experiences. So walk the paths and make new paths by discussing topics with your peers, relating your personal experience to the learning in class, and by revisiting the central concepts in as many ways as you can. How many paths can you wear in? A countless number. Now get to work doing and thinking.

And on the topic of thinking, these paths can be traveled in your mind’s eye. You don’t have to only go to the forest when you come to discussion to make your posts. You can travel the paths while washing the dishes, while awaiting the start of an appointment, while skiing. This is metacognition- thinking about thinking. Just thinking about what happened in class or what was said in the discussion makes the path become stronger and more complex. If you think about how your own perspective on the knowledge changes, your brain is working even harder.

Well, enough about that. Here are some things that need clarification from Unit 2:

When calcium ions are actively transported into the sarcoplasmic reticulum, what happens to a muscle?

Please watch this video to understand how calcium and muscle contraction work. I think this question was tricky because the calcium moves within the muscle complex during contraction and relaxation. When the calcium goes into the sarcoplasmic reticulum from where it is departing? Where does the muscle contraction actually occur?


In the Haversian canal travels the blood cells, nerve cells, and lymphatic cells. Some of you omitted lymphatic cells.

Muscle tissue develops from what embryonic cell type?

There are only three embryonic cell types. Muscle tissue develops from the mesoderm. What are the other embryonic cell types?

What is the word root for muscle?

When I wrote the key, I was thinking of myo- but sarco- would be a good answer here. No one said sarco- so I wanted to mention it. This point was made in one of the videos.

I think that about wraps it up,


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