Classroom Vignette #1

Classroom Vignette #1

Looking in: Structure and Function of Body Systems

Professor Lawson is chewing gum and class has not yet begun. Students are milling around the room conversing with one another. Professor Lawson lowers the screen and the slide entitled “Motor Systems: Pyramid” appears. Although class has officially begun, the professor states, “actually we are stalling for time and waiting for more hand-outs. There is a practical exam for neuroscience coming up but not until the last day of the course. We will meet in the wet lab on Friday at 8:30 and will cut up some brains-there will be lot for your family. This will be mainly for amusement we’re just going to cut them up. So be watching for that e-mail announcement about the lab. We only have one brain per group. Take some precaution. Formaldehyde is fairly toxic especially to your eyes and skin.”

The professor begins the presentation. ”Today we are going to talk about motor systems mainly the anatomy of the ears and eyes and voluntary movement…all of which can be broken up into voluntary reflexes. Everything begins in the cortex.” He describes the pre-central gyrus and states he’ll cover the structures and functions involved in voluntary movement, show the neural pathways and the entrance and exit points. First he shows the transverse brain stem. “This is the most difficult part of the brain, it is interrupted by lots of fiber.”  He does not face students while he shows slides.

The professor continues to explain what structures appear in the brain and how the angle of cut will reveal specific structures. He quickly explains the functions of selected structures in the brain. “If you are following along in the book on page 104, here you will see the cerebral peduncle.” He shows the longitudinal fiber of the pons and highlights on the slide the “pontine nuclei.” The professor tells students that rather than using the term “superior peduncle” it is now called the longitudinal fibers of the pons. He shows them another but larger slide version of the same slide shown and then he draws an illustration on the board but he does not identify the structures. Throughout the lecture, the side of his body and face the audience. “The left side of the brain controls the right side of the brain, everything crosses over and not everything has this arrangement in the visual space.” He continues to explain the structure of the brain and illustrates on the white board. “You rarely have control of the individual muscles because it is all organized at a neuronal level,” the professor states. He shows a slide that illustrates the basal ganglia and points outs the sub thalamic nucleus and substantia nigra “which appears white and is always in the same place.” He compares “substantia nigra” to moon pie and asks the students: “Do you know what a moon pie is?”

Next, he discusses sensory cerebellum input. “When you talk about motor systems you have to talk about the cerebellum, no one knows much about it, but the cerebellum is important to programming muscles to move at certain rates and velocities in movement.” He continues, “The primary fissure separates the cerebellum into anterior and posterior lobes sometimes called hemispheres.” He points out nodules, explains their functions and continues to disseminate information rapidly while facing screen. “So the cerebellum is going to get a lot of sensory input.” He continues to provide an overview of structures/functions of the brain without pause. “We talked about this earlier” his voice trails off. “Remember that the cerebella peduncles connect the brain stem. The other source of cerebellum input is the cerebral context. All of this information isn’t very good until we do something with it. Then there is the cerebellum output, the Purkinye cells are going to relay this information and the output path of the cerebellum is the superior cerebellum peduncle that crosses over the path and passes into the red nucleus. Some of the other passes over into the ventro-lateral nucleus.”  He concludes the presentation of information. Following the presentation, the professor presents five slides (without any identifying information) and asks students to identify structures that he had discussed throughout this session. He pauses between each slide, yet none of the students respond.

Classroom Vignette # 1 Questions

1. Describe the way in which the teacher provides instruction.

2. What are some instructional strategies that the instructor could have used to promote critical thinking skills?

After you answer these questions, you may wish to review the author’s impressions in Appendix A.