Interplays of psychometric abilities on learning gross anatomy

Claire F. Smith, Camilla Stockholm, Reetu Sinha, Fiona Ponikwer, Madeline Carter, Maria Birch

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In recent years, there has been international debate concerning how students learn anatomy. The rapid increase in scientific knowledge has put pressure on the place of anatomy within the medical and allied health professional curricula, as well as the design and structure of anatomy courses. In this regard, relatively little is known about what medical and allied health professions students want from an anatomy course or how they learn it. To assess students’ learning approaches and perceptions of anatomy, a series of psychometric tests were administered to Medical (n=82), Podiatry (n=21), and Pharmacy (n=74) students in the United Kingdom. Analysis of the Anatomy Learning Experience (ALE) questionnaire revealed a predominantly positive attitude towards anatomy and the dissection room, with most valuing cadaveric dissection and not regarding it as a daunting environment. Further to this, analysis of the Approaches to Studying Inventory for Students (ASSIST) revealed predominant preferences for strategic and deep approaches. Personality traits were associated with certain learning approaches; neuroticism with surface (p=0.038), conscientiousness with both a deep and strategic approach (p=0.000 and p=0.060 respectively). Certain personality traits were also found to be associated with anatomy experience e.g. neuroticism and achievement striving felt the most effective way to learn was to get their hands in and feel for structures (p=0.044 and p=0.012 respectively). This study concludes that undergraduate students of medicine, podiatry and pharmacy learn anatomy in slightly different ways. Preparation for classroom activities should centre on the promotion of an optimum learning environment and teaching strategies which promote a deep approach to learning. Understanding students’ personality and learning experiences should help teachers improve the students’ learning of anatomy for effective application to clinical practice. 
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1045
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2017

    Bibliographical note

    © 2017 The Authors


    • learning anatomy
    • spatial ability
    • approaches to learning
    • learning styles
    • anatomy education
    • reflective practice
    • assessment
    • scholarship
    • conscientiousness
    • personality


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