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Evaluating curricular implementation techniques to enhance anatomy education




Heise, Natascha, author
Clapp, Tod, advisor
Bouma, Jerry, committee member
Winger, Quint, committee member
Gupta, Kalpana, committee member

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The need for healthcare workers in the United States is growing exponentially, and in order to meet this increasing demand, medical schools and other health-related institutions have begun to increase their student enrollment. Human anatomy is one of the foundational courses in medical school, and if students develop a good understanding of human anatomy, then they are more likely to be successful as a health- care professional. However, changes in the curriculum over the past several decades have decreased the time, faculty, and money devoted to the anatomical sciences. Therefore, it is of great importance that anatomists identify and implement methodologies that increase learning efficiency in the classroom which will ultimately aid students in their success. Previous mixed methods studies have started to bridge the gap between research and practice in science teaching to evaluate existing teaching strategies and incorporate more time efficient and active learning strategies. These studies have shown that students gain a greater amount of knowledge, are more engaged, and acquire an abundance of skills if the teaching methods are purposefully incorporated into their anatomy curriculum. Most of these curricula are guided by the influential work of Plato, Immanuel Kant, John Dewey, Malcolm Knowles, Allan Bloom, David Kolb, and Howard Gardner, whose theories have been used in the social sciences for decades. The goal of this work was to evaluate existing methods and the implementation of novel pedagogical techniques in the human anatomy and neuroanatomy classroom at Colorado State University, purposefully implement new time efficient teaching methods, and make recommendations for educators of the anatomical sciences and other disciplines. It identifies important and practical strategies for increasing efficiency in the classroom to improve student mastery of human anatomy in less time. A mixed methods approach was used in these studies collecting both quantitative and qualitative data, providing an in-depth view of how the research participants experienced the implemented curricular changes in the classroom. This methodology shed light on the benefits and implications of the different pedagogical implementation techniques. Chapter II reviewed the use value of low-stakes frequent quizzing in a cadaveric laboratory. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between weekly table quizzes and the overall student outcomes in a graduate biomedical human dissection class, as well as to examine the benefits and implications of this approach. The data suggested a potential correlation between performance on weekly quizzes and on unit examinations. This uniquely structured assessment tool provided the students with the opportunity to practice the retrieval of their knowledge, feel more guided throughout their dissection, and receive immediate feedback on their performance. Chapter III investigated the role of technology in anatomy education, specifically examining learner engagement and retention utilizing Virtual Reality. Results suggested that using Virtual Reality was comparable to two-dimensional methods in student knowledge acquisition and retention of anatomical relationships, and qualitative data collection indicated that the technology promoted student engagement and increased opportunities for students to interact with teaching assistants, peers, and the content. The purpose of the studies in Chapter IV was to investigate how a semester-long group project in a cadaveric graduate classroom at Colorado State University and Rocky Vista University affected students' group dynamic, personal development, experience, and learning approach. Results indicated that the majority of participants (85%) underwent a change in their development as a group member and have modified their learning strategies from rote memorization to being able to connect the material as a whole. The use of case studies in an undergraduate classroom was investigated in Chapter V with the hope to improve student confidence and provide them with a definitive useful road map when solving any novel problem. Results indicated that student performance on written case study summaries improved over approximately ten weeks of practicing the systematic four-step approach. Further, students reported that the approach greatly increased their confidence in tackling a novel problem. Chapter VI provides a teacher's manual explaining the detailed use and application of the approach in the classroom while using the neurological condition hydrocephalus as an example. Chapter VII focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of a full-time, week-long human anatomy camp at Colorado State University. Success of the program was measured by a follow-up survey one-year after camp, indicating that all 28 senior high school students had applied to college and were considering STEM as a career path. Camp counselors have reported continued mentor/mentee relationships with the students after camp. This study further evaluated the use of case studies in the classroom and as a way to work and connect high school with college students. Overall, these studies address effectiveness of anatomy education at the undergraduate and graduate level through in-person, remote, and outreach instructional methods. The findings in this work suggest that anatomy education should include frequent low-stakes quizzes, technology, long-term group work, and problem-based learning methods to shift to more effective and active learning in the time restricted classroom. These studies recommend consistent evaluation of existing teaching methods through the lens of evidence-based learning theories and will inform educators in the anatomical sciences and other disciplines on practical methods to supplement or substitute existing teaching practices.


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