Improving disciplinary literacy in anatomy

Dr. Katherine Linehan (Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield, UK and Intelligent Anatomy Award Nominee) developed a new approach to teaching anatomy in her ten credit, 12-week module ‘Anatomy of the Human Body’, for second year BSc Biomedical Science students (N=180) at the University of Sheffield. A case study of the module approach is available here

The aim of the module is to provide students with a holistic understanding of human anatomy structures and function. The lecturer explains that she wished to identify more effective ways to teach anatomy, having struggled herself in this area as a learner, and also was very motivated to make the curriculum more inclusive and accessible for all her students (a large and diverse group), particularly given that those whose first language is other than English, and students with dyslexia, frequently struggle with the Latin and Greek terminology involved. In addition, traditional pedagogical approaches in the subject rely on dissection and rote learning.

A key aim of the module is to offer students a wide range of learning and teaching approaches such that the curriculum content is more accessible. Students are encouraged to identify preferred learning approaches. In addition to verbal and text-based explanations and presentations, and lectures and human dissection, Dr. Linehan employs active learning methodologies including students creating 2D or 3D models of anatomical structures, using face paints to draw muscles on arms and hands of peers, and an ‘aerobics’ session to demonstrate the actions of limb muscles. Interactive lectures are supported by subsequent practical sessions, and students work in small groups in dissection classes. Multiple and varied multimedia resources are provided on the module VLE, including video clips, quizzes, glossaries, animations and models, and podcasts, as well as lecture slides and module handbooks, which include explicit instruction on tasks which students must complete having accessed the online resources. Assessment is summative via two online MCQ quizzes and an anatomical ‘spotter’ test.

Student feedback was highly positive in relation to increased knowledge and understanding of anatomical structures and functions, development of dissection skills, development of transferable and independent study skills, and the usefulness of materials. The lecturer’s approach was received by students as highly motivating, interesting, enjoyable, very active, and distinct. As the author(s) of the case study notes, the student feedback also indicates that they moved from rote learning-based to more conceptual understanding and independent learning approaches as a result of their engagement in this module.

A range of further examples regarding inclusive curriculum design in Bioscience can be found here.