Skip the CSI reruns this summer; look behind the microscope at innovative LIT anatomy class
Stephanie Lanoue chronicled the crime scene evidence in great detail. Within minutes, each research team took sides and carefully inspected them under a microscope.
Their charge was to follow the evidence. Though this might sound like a scene from television’s CSI, it is actually a classroom at Lamar Institute of Technology. Lanoue has incorporated clues and evidence from the television series to create her own version of Beaumont CSI: LIT Division.
This is Lanoue’s way of getting students excited about learning anatomy. It’s a puzzle, and each student must analyze the clues. They must determine all the facts and come to their own conclusion based on the questions presented.
Their energy was palatable, with adrenalin heavy in the air. Lanoue watched as the LIT students debated, argued and even discussed why their theory was correct and determine what the evidence on each slide means to their investigation.
“I developed a lecture and a lab,” she said, both based on cases seen on the popular television show. Lanoue went to the CSI Web site to get started. The Web site gave her direction on how to use experiments to determine blood type and analyze DNA. All the data was tied to an episode of CSI. With basic tools like a microscope, students were able to do many of the experiments showcased on the popular television franchise.
“They discovered how tedious and how detailed (the work) was. They were surprised how much time and work intensive it was,” Lanoue said.
But, like avid readers glued to a good mystery, her students were persistent and engaged. They couldn’t wait to get into class and get to work. They got excited about solving cases, she said.
One case, which Lanoue created based on a fictional incident that occurred at the Multi-Purpose Center, got students so excited they started arguing about the outcome. In this make-believe scenario, someone broke into a room and took an LIT computer. With few clues, the students had to guess who the culprit was. It was their quest to find a way to tie the culprit to the scene of the crime. Some of the clues involved salt on the sole of a shoe, a missing shoe sole, a fly head and body, which had been detached from each other during the crime, and blood samples.
“They yelled and debated. They were engaged with what they were doing. They were really into it,” Lanoue said of the made-up scenario. “They thought about it all night and all the way home. Who did it? It got their attention and interest in learning. I haven’t had anyone say (class) is boring. That’s a good thing.”
Lanoue creates a packet for each student group. Each CSI packet includes clue cards, which she gets from the Web site. For Lanoue, it is a way to capture the attention of students and get them excited about learning anatomy.
“I like it,” said Bryan Mayfield of Gonzales. “It’s interesting to learn about how the body works.” Using the CSI series as a backdrop makes the class more interactive, he said.
Jarrod Odom of Vidor agreed. “I lucked out. We have a good teacher. She is very enthusiastic.” Odom, who has attended other colleges, said he was impressed with the unique nature of the class and how it got the students involved.
Ursula Bryant of Beaumont said “she finds a way to help you understand (anatomy). Bryant says the class interesting and is easy to comprehend. “Now all I think about doing is solving this (case), like we are in a forensic class.” Although some people think anatomy is a difficult subject, Lanoue gives her students a lot of tips to help them study and incorporates everything you need to know into the daily lessons, she said.
Currently, one of Lanoue’s classes is planning to extract DNA from strawberries. While another class, still looking at clues as a CSI might, will be given a blood stained cloth from a crime scene. The students must determine who committed a mock burglary at school and got cut while leaving the scene of the crime. They will do this by determining what blood type the criminal has and matching that blood type to a suspect, Lanoue said.
“They love it,” Lanoue said about her students’ reaction to her teaching technique. Students who are now in her second year anatomy class are really getting good at problem solving, she said. “They are very proficient with the microscope too.”
Lanoue started using unique teaching methods after she learned about the five E scientific model. This technique focuses on five elements used to capture the imagination of the student while educating. Lanoue explained that the teaching model’s goal is to engage, explore, explain (which occurs during lecture) and extend, which challenges students to answer a question or solve a problem. The final element, evaluate, offers an instructor the opportunity to make sure students are learning the lesson.
In Lanoue’s class, she interacts with each group, talks with them, and asks questions about who they think committed the given crime. “I go through the model with the students,” although they might not be aware of it, she said.
Lanoue, a huge CSI fan, said she is often teaching when the show is on television so she tapes the series. But, she also gets to see CSI unfold live, in the classroom. For Lanoue, seeing an excited and engaged student learning is what makes her job worthwhile.
After LIT President Dr. Paul Szuch saw a presentation of her teaching technique at LIT’s All College Day workshop this past fall, he encouraged Lanoue to submit a proposal to present a workshop at the National Institute for Staff and Organization Development, an international conference on teaching and leadership education. This past week, Lanoue shared the teaching model she used to develop her class with her peers at NISOD’s annual convention in Austin. She received rave reviews.
“It was standing room only,” she said about her session, which attracted about 150. “When I finished people said it really helped them. They really liked what they heard and said they could put it to work relatively easy (to implement).”
But, response from one struggling new instructor stood out. That instructor said seeing the presentation could “revolutionize her teaching career.”
Students can currently register for Summer II and fall classes. Summer II is from July 11 through Aug. 14. The fall semester begins Aug. 25. For more information, call student services at (409) 880-8321.