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Anatomy Curriculum

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

  A Quantitative Analysis of Four Undergraduate Human Anatomy Laboratory Curricula: Approaches, Identified Structures, Concepts, and Thematic Emphases


Human anatomy is a foundational course that serves diverse pre-professional health care majors.  However, limited information is available on the teaching approaches, content, and thematic emphases of this course at the undergraduate level when compared with that of medical and other graduate schools. Herein, we document and quantitatively evaluate the laboratory curriculum of four undergraduate human anatomy courses in the USA. For each course, we assess the total number of structures (terms requiring identification during an exam),concepts(terms requiring an explanation),and clinical applications.  To facilitate further assessments, we also compare the content distribution of each course with that recommended by the American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA). Two courses followed a regional approach emphasizing the use of human cadavers, while the other two followed a system-based approach and used plastic models and non-human cadaveric materials (e.g., cats and sheep). The total amount of information presented to students differed significantly among curricula.  The majority of terms (65–88%) taught to students referred to the identification of anatomical structures whereas clinical applications were rare (<1.3%). Courses using a regional approach expected students to learn as much as twice the number of terms than those following a system-based approach.  Functions, innervations, origins, and insertions of muscles are only included in the curriculum of the courses following a regional approach.  The proportion of terms devoted to each anatomical module in all curricula was significantly different from each other, as well as from that of AACA recommendation. We discuss these differences in the curriculum, the challenges and limitations inherent with each teaching approach, as well as in the teaching materials used among the curricula.  The sequantitative analyses aim to provide insightful information about the structure of the undergraduate human anatomy laboratory curriculum and may prove useful when redesigning a course.


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