The phenomenon of learning and applying anatomy for podiatry practice

  • Maria Birch

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Anatomy is an important component of pre-registration healthcare courses, and much research has been undertaken into how and when it is taught and assessed, largely measured in terms of student performance. No such research base exists regarding the student perspective of this experience. This study used the lived experience of podiatry students when learning anatomy, and applying and developing that learning in clinical practice, to gain insights into the phenomenon of learning and applying anatomy.

    Adopting some of the principles of Husserlian phenomenological philosophy, this study was conducted using a modified descriptive phenomenological methodology as proposed by Amadeus Giorgi. During a three year pre-registration programme, three students were interviewed following the completion of their first year anatomy module, after two scheduled year three clinical sessions, and after a final learning encounter in the dissection room.

    Analysis of the interview transcripts revealed the structure of the lived experience to consist of eight constituent parts: 1) assuming a learner-ready attitude, 2) employing patterns of behaviour, 3) (de)constructing anatomy, 4) a sense of reality for or from practice, 5) solving clinical problems, 6) working alone, with resources, and through and with others, 7) recognising (in)competence in self and others, and 8) reflecting and acting on experience. I have offered plausible and thoughtful insights for anatomy teachers in podiatry and for others in healthcare education, with the intention that this common structure may resonate with them and that they can have a shared familiarity.

    The constituent parts have then been formulated into a model of learning anatomy. The model shows that the student experience of learning and applying anatomy is a process comprised of three sequential stages: making sense, making meaning and working with meaning, and is mediated by reflection.

    These findings will help teachers of anatomy for podiatry to facilitate learning, and may be transferrable to other healthcare professions in which anatomy is a component. Recommendations are made for anatomy teaching and learning practices in both theory and clinical settings. The recommendations will help to enable students to make sense, make meaning, work with meaning, and develop their skills of reflection throughout their education for professional clinical practice.
    Date of AwardDec 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorKeith Turvey (Supervisor) & Phil Mandy (Supervisor)

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