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Is dissection of more educational value than other methods of learning and teaching anatomy? A student partner approach for evidence-based investigation of dissection as a teaching and learning method in anatomy

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jo Matthan, Dr Iain KeenanORCiD


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Historically, dissection has been used widely for the teachingand learning of anatomy. This method has, however, been onthe decrease in recent years. My aim as a student partner inthis project was to identify the evidence-base for the use ofdissection in anatomy education and form a hypothesis forpotential future investigations of dissection in anatomyeducation. I have investigated and reviewed the availablequantitative and qualitative evidence that supports the use ofdissection, to highlight its advantages and disadvantages andto review the opposing academic viewpoints on the role ofdissection as a teaching and learning method in anatomy. Ihave also examined students’ perceptions of their ownlearning through dissection, while considering factors includingself-assessment and the emotional impact of dissection.We have identified that there is limited empirical data tosupport the benefits of using dissection when compared toother methods of learning and teaching anatomy. There exists,however, a breadth of qualitative evidence that supports theuse of dissection to aid anatomy education. The available datawould seem to suggest that dissection alone is not as effectiveas cadaveric usage (in the form of either prosections or hands ondissecting) and that it is most effective when used incombination with modern technologies (e.g., plastinations andmultimedia learning packages). This is likely due to theprovision of a variety of learning methods, which is known toimprove learning. In addition, students consider dissection auseful means of understanding anatomy and its importance forclinical practice and have reported working with cadavericspecimens as a valuable opportunity for kinaesthetic learning.Based on my review, we propose the initiation of a mixed-methodrandomised-controlled trial or cohort study that wouldbe designed and carried out by students in partnership withanatomy staff. It is anticipated that our research would beconducted with a participating group of medical students atNewcastle Medical School in order to obtain robust quantitativeevidence in addition to further qualitative data, and thereforedetermine how effective dissection can be for enhancingstudent learning.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pergolizzi C, Matthan J, Keenan I

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Anatomical Society Winter Meeting 2013: Assessment Within Medical Education & Sense Organs

Year of Conference: 2013

Pages: 739-759

ISSN: 1469-7580

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/joa.12175

Series Title: Journal of Anatomy