The Effect of Spatial Ability on Speed and Accuracy of Identifying Anatomical Structures

Purpose/Hypothesis : This investigation examined the effect of spatial ability on studentsÕ accuracy and efficiency of identification of anatomical structures. It was hypothesized that higher spatial ability skills would result in more accurate and efficient identification.Number of Subjects : The study utilized a convenience sample of 9 males and 24 females over the age of 18. ParticipantÕs included undergraduate students with major fields of study in biology, nursing, exercise science, and psychology. Exclusion criteria included individuals with previous anatomy course experience utilizing cadavers and individuals with sensitivity to formaldehyde.Materials/Methods : Participants were administered two tests of spatial ability; the Santa Barbara Solids Test and the Visualization of Views Test. Subjects were assigned to high (18) and low spatial ability (15) groups based on the combined scores of the two tests. The participants were then asked to identify anatomical structures on a prosected cadaver by placing numbered pins in the appropriate structures while viewing a two-dimensional, labeled picture. Participants were timed during the test, but remained unaware of this. Upon completion of the activity, the accuracy of pin placement was determined by two separate researchers. A MANCOVA was utilized to assess the effect of spatial ability on accuracy and speed of identification of anatomical structures. Previous experience in a human anatomy course (non-dissection) was used as a covariate to account for any effect this variable might have.Results : Previous anatomy experience did not have a significant effect on studentsÕ performances on either of the dependent variables. Spatial ability, however, was found to have a significant effect on the linear combination of scores of both variables. Univariate tests were examined to determine which of the two variables were affected by spatial ability. The results indicated that the high spatial ability group scored significantly higher (p = .022) on the identification task with a mean score of 9.39 (CI95,8.64,10.13) as compared to the low spatial ability group with a mean score of 8.07 (CI95,7.25,8.89). There was no significant difference between groups on the time required by participants to complete the identification task (p=0.726).Conclusions : The findings suggest that students with higher spatial abilities are more adept at using two-dimensional images to recognize anatomical structures in a three dimensional format. These findings may assist anatomy teachers in physical therapy programs in identifying students and providing instruction that will allow students with lower spatial ability to perform better on anatomy laboratory practical examinations.Clinical Relevance : The effective practice of physical therapy is built on a foundation of anatomical knowledge. Finding ways to identify students who may have difficulty mastering this content and adapting educational experiences to facilitate their learning may well make them better practitioners.

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  • Control #: 2026109
  • Type: Poster
  • Event/Year: CSM2015
  • Authors: Phillip B. Palmer, Chelsi L. Colburn, Amanda D. Holland, Savannah C. Ooten, Lawrence D. Robertson
  • Keywords: Anatomy education |spatial cognition|Learning

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