Building on a series of higher educational arts/medicine initiatives, an interdisciplinary drawing module themed on the human body was developed for both year 3 Craft students and year 3 Medicine degree students. This became the subject of a research project exploring how the collaborative approach to drawing adopted on this module impacted on the students’ learning. In this article, emphasis is given to issues thought to have most potential relevance to medical education. Methods Using an ethnographic research design, the methods adopted were: direct observation of all aspects of the module sessions, audio and video recordings and photographs of the sessions, the incorporation of a semi-structured discussion at the end of each session, and anonymous student questionnaires. Results A number of key themes emerged. The complex, phased and multi-sensory nature of the ‘critical looking’ skills developed through the drawing exercises was seen as of potential value in medical education, being proposed as analogous to processes involved in clinical examination and diagnosis. The experience of interdisciplinary collaborative drawing was significant to the students as a creative, participatory and responsive form of learning. The emphasis on the physical experience of drawing and the thematic use of the human body as drawing subject led to reflective discussions about bodily knowledge and understanding. There were indications that students had a meta-cognitive awareness of the learning shifts that had occurred and the sessions provoked constructive self-reflective explorations of pre-professional identity. Conclusions This preliminary study suggests, through the themes identified, that there may be potential learning benefits for medical students in this model of interdisciplinary collaborative drawing of the human body. Further research is needed to explore their applicability and value to medical education. There is a need to explore in more depth the beliefs, motivations and learning styles of medical students opting for the module, the significance and weighting of different learning and teaching elements in the module and the impact of the learning on medical students in the immediate post-module phase.
Bibliographical note© 2013 Lyon et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.