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Clin Anat. 2007 Oct;20(7):843-8.

An investigation into medical students' approaches to anatomy learning in a systems-based prosection course.

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  • 1Centre for Learning Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Boldrewood Campus, Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom. c.f.smith@soton.ac.uk


Students' approaches to learning anatomy are driven by many factors and perceptions, e.g., the curriculum, assessment, previous educational experience, and the influence of staff and fellow students. However, there has been remarkably little research into characterizing how students approach their anatomy learning. What is known, based on a sample of 243 students, is that students studying medicine at the University of Southampton adopt primarily a "deep" approach to learning. Medical students at Southampton learn anatomy in a systems-based curriculum through prosections. Analysis of data from an Approaches to Study Inventory (ASSIST) revealed that students preferred using a deep approach over a strategic or surface approach (P < 0.001 and P < 0.001, respectively). They also adopted an increasingly strategic approach as they moved through the medical curriculum. There was a relationship between anatomy examination results and approach to learning. Students who adopted a strategic approach performed better (R = 0.266, P < 0.001). It is argued that curriculum design, including the form of assessment, is the key to promote effective anatomy education and the goal of deep and meaningful learning in preparation for professional practice.

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