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Tutors' Reflections: Hey, Stories with Pictures Can Be Fun
By Erica Jones, 1st-year Anatomy and Physiology Tutor, Selkirk College, Castlegar, BC, Canada
Edited by Andrea Kösling, MA, Learning Specialist, Selkirk College, Castlegar, BC, Canada
Everyone has a different learning style. How many times have you heard that? Even though it is true, when I tell that to a tutee, he or she may just go, "Uh huh, that's great; how does that help me?" So instead of telling a tutee that, I try to use as many different sensory cues as possible; that way, no matter what the tutee's learning style, I'm covering all the bases. One of the most useful techniques I've discovered is to describe a sequence of events as if I were telling a story and then illustrate it as I go. So when I am trying to describe, oh let's say, how an event on the outside of the cell would signal an action within the cell, I could use the growth hormone and tell it as story:
One day a bone decides, "Hey I need to do some growing here." So the bone calls up the anterior pituitary gland and says, "Hey, I need to do some growing." As a result, the anterior pituitary gland says to the growth hormone, "Hey, head on out to see that bone and tell it to go ahead and grow." So the growth hormone heads out through the blood stream, taking a bunch of twists and turns, and finally makes it to the bone. The growth hormone circles the location for a while until it finds the doorbell (the receptor). The growth hormone rings the doorbell (binds to the active site of the receptor), and the second messenger answers (the protein receptor changes shape, and the second messenger that is bound to it is released). "Hey what do you want?" the second messenger asks. The growth hormone says, "Go and tell the nucleus that it needs to start doing some mitosis so that we can get some growth happening."
Now, the second messenger is kind of lazy, so instead if going all
the way to the nucleus, it only goes to another protein hanging out
in the cytoplasm. It says, "Hey, you know what would be really
fun, if you went and told the nucleus that we should get some cell division
going on. Think what a party it would be; it's always so much fun during
mitosis." (Kind of a Tom Sawyer type of deal.) The protein says,
"Yeah, you're right; that would be fun," and heads straight
to the nucleus and tells it that it's time to start dividing.
See how much fun that can be. Now think about adding pictures, and it turns into a really effective demonstration technique that the tutee can usually remember.
Erica Jones has such a lively writing style that I could not interject her flow with any explanatory information. Obviously, this tutor is tapping into the power of visualization and mnemonics, thereby making the learning process fun as well as effective. No matter what preference a student has, combining as many of the senses as possible yields the best results. The trick is always finding out in which way the senses should be used. In my experience, the visual/non-verbal processing (creating and drawing images) along with the verbal techniques students usually use (e.g. auditory - talking about the information, visual - reading the textbook and notes, and kinaesthetic - writing the information out) is one of the most effective study strategies. Like many of the study-skills textbooks indicate, it's effective because it accesses many different parts of the brain, and in my experience, it has worked every time. As I mentioned, this tutor is also successful in making the tutoring sessions fun. Fun increases interest, which increases involvement, and therefore increases the actual learning taking place. All of sudden, anatomy and physiology doesn't seem quite so intimidating any more.
Topic of the Tutor-Training Session
Learning and Study Skills (with emphasis on memorization techniques)
Assigned Readings and Viewings for the Tutor-Training Session
Brown, S.A. & Miller, D.E. (1996). "The short and long-term memory systems." In The active learner: Successful study strategies (2nd ed.) (pp.180-189). Los Angelos: Roxbury Publishing Company.
Kösling, A. (2004). "Overview." and "Memorization." In Study Skills. Castlegar, British Columbia, Canada: Selkirk College. Retrieved June 1, 2005, from Selkirk College's Learning Centre Website http://people.selkirk.bc.ca/akosling/Study_Skills_Webpages/Overview.html and http://people.selkirk.bc.ca/akosling/Study_Skills_Webpages/Memorization.html
University of California. (1986). Tutoring Learning Skills. In The Tutor's Guide [video]. Lincoln, Nebraska: Office of Instructional Development, University of California.
© 2005, Erica Jones and Andrea Kosling
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