Reconstructing a Human Gross Anatomy Course Based on Constructivist Learning Theory

Background & Purpose : This education case study examines the case of a Human Gross Anatomy course re-conceptualized based on constructivist learning theory. Many active learning approaches to teaching are based on constructivist theory, which purports that adults construct knowledge by engaging in activities that allow them to tap prior knowledge as they encounter new information, thereby expand understanding and creating meaning. In the DPT curriculum, Human Gross Anatomy the first major course and not only helps students gain anatomy knowledge but introduces them to their roles as learners. Historically taught in a traditional format with lecture and cadaver dissection, it appeared to fall outside best practice for adult learning and had potential to set learners on a path toward a passive learner role. The course was redesigned with goals of facilitating learning of anatomy while preparing students to be information seekers, as students and clinicians.Case Description : Faculty developed new expectations and strategies for student learning and assessment. For didactic sessions, students reviewed faculty-developed anatomy resources and prepared for case discussions by looking up terms, responding to guiding questions and identifying their own. Faculty provided online videos for lab preparation and coached lab instructors on ways to foster self-directed learning. Required competency quizzes became a new vehicle for formative self-assessment and learning. Students repeated each 20-item quiz as often as needed to reach a pre-defined level of mastery.Outcomes : Effectiveness was evaluated by student performance on exams and surveying students, lab instructors and DPT faculty. A vast majority of students reported preparing for class and rated the online anatomy resources and competency quizzes as extremely helpful (5 on 5-point Likert scale). Case discussions and lab videos were also helpful, though somewhat less so. Lab instructors and other DPT faculty found students to be more self-directed in class, but were split as to whether students came to class more prepared. There was no difference on exam performance when compared to prior years.Discussion : Based on the outcome assessments and their own observations, the course faculty believe the redesign succeeded in fostering active engagement and self-directed learning, and other faculty identified carryover, particularly of self-directed behaviors. While no change in performance was noted on exams, additional assessment is needed to evaluate studentsÕ anatomy knowledge and learning behavior as they progress through the program and enter clinic. Based on this experience and the strength of the underlying educational theory, the faculty in Human Gross Anatomy are considering completely flipping the classroom in the future by eliminating lecture entirely and making students responsible, individually and in teams, for pre-class preparation and in-class engagement in active learning as they construct their knowledge on anatomy.

BACK to Abstract Results

  • Control #: 1727039
  • Type: Poster
  • Event/Year: CSM2014
  • Authors: Marianne Beninato, Douglas E. Haladay, Mary S. Knab
  • Keywords: Human Anatomy|Active Learning|Constructivist Learning Theory

BACK to Abstract Results