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Transforming musculoskeletal anatomy learning with haptic surface painting

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Iain KeenanORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2023 The Authors. Anatomical Sciences Education published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Association for Anatomy.Anatomical body painting has traditionally been utilized to support learner engagement and understanding of surface anatomy. Learners apply two-dimensional representations of surface markings directly on to the skin, based on the identification of key landmarks. Esthetically satisfying representations of musculature and viscera can also be created. However, established body painting approaches do not typically address three-dimensional spatial anatomical concepts. Haptic Surface Painting (HSP) is a novel activity, distinct from traditional body painting, and aims to develop learner spatial awareness. The HSP process is underpinned by previous work describing how a Haptico-visual observation and drawing method can support spatial, holistic, and collaborative anatomy learning. In HSP, superficial and underlying musculoskeletal and vascular structures are located haptically by palpation. Transparent colors are then immediately applied to the skin using purposive and cross-contour drawing techniques to produce corresponding visual representations of learner observation and cognition. Undergraduate students at a United Kingdom medical school (n = 7) participated in remote HSP workshops and focus groups. A phenomenological study of learner perspectives identified four themes from semantic qualitative analysis of transcripts: Three-dimensional haptico-visual exploration relating to learner spatial awareness of their own anatomy; cognitive freedom and accessibility provided by a flexible and empowering learning process; altered perspectives of anatomical detail, relationships, and clinical relevance; and delivery and context, relating to curricular integration, session format, and educator guidance. This work expands the pedagogic repertoire of anatomical body painting and has implications for anatomy educators seeking to integrate innovative, engaging, and effective learning approaches for transforming student learning.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Shapiro L, Hobbs E, Keenan ID

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Anatomical Sciences Education

Year: 2023

Volume: 16

Issue: 4

Pages: 677-693

Print publication date: 01/07/2023

Online publication date: 07/02/2023

Acceptance date: 06/02/2023

Date deposited: 08/03/2023

ISSN (print): 1935-9772

ISSN (electronic): 1935-9780

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc


DOI: 10.1002/ase.2262


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Funder referenceFunder name
Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice