The Power of Touch: Research Suggests Anatomy is a ‘Hands On’ Discipline

By Sheryll Poe | August 31, 2022

Anatomy courses typically include a range of delivery formats including lectures, labs, mixed lecture and labs, and even online and hybrid courses. And all of these formats use different specimens for learning anatomical structures, including plastic models, digital anatomical software programs and animal specimens.

But not all programs have a body donation program and are able to have cadaver specimens, and even when they do, some students find it difficult to work with prosected donors and may choose not to. A new study published by two researchers at Kansas City University found that “physical manipulation of donor specimens results in improved laboratory practical performance” for students enrolled in undergraduate anatomy courses.  

“As the faculty member leading the course, I noticed multiple students (across multiple courses) not working with the prosected donors,” said Jennifer Dennis, professor of Anatomy and Chair of Pathology & Anatomical Sciences at Kansas City University. “I realized that some students never decided to make physical contact with the prosections and shared this with my co-worker and friend, Dr. Brad Creamer. From there, the study was born!”

Dennis and Creamer’s research found that students who used the donors were more likely to earn a higher grade for the laboratory component of the course than students who did not use the donors. In fact, students who chose not to physically manipulate structures were seven times more likely to earn non-passing grade in the course.

“Student success in anatomy is dependent on numerous variables. Some variables are beyond the scope of what a faculty member can change,” Dennis explained. “This paper highlights the role of the student and how their choices may positively (or negatively) impact their success; it also highlights the role(s) faculty can have by encouraging student engagement. By sharing with other anatomy educators, we hope that this is one additional avenue faculty and staff can use to encourage student engagement and success.”

Read “To Touch or Not to Touch: Evaluating Student Laboratory Outcomes of Hands-On versus Visual Examination of Prosected Cadavers” in Education Sciences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s