Premium Teaching Students to See: Visual Learning Instruction for Two Different Undergraduate Anatomy Courses
Barger Bradley
Publication year2016
Publication title
the faseb journal
Resource typeJournals
To learn anatomy, students need to be able to understand and mentally manipulate visual images. It is often assumed that students will come to class already well‐equipped with the visual skills needed for success. This research explores the pre‐existing visual skills undergraduate students have when entering two different anatomy lab courses, and how those skills change over time. The courses examined are an undergraduate introductory anatomy course, and an upper‐level undergraduate histology course. Both course populations were assessed in their mental rotation scores at the beginning and end of the semester, as well as surveyed about their study habits at the same two time points. Changes in self‐reported visual study habits and mental rotation scores were correlated with final grades in the two courses. Additionally, visual literacy and mental rotation skills were taught to the histology students through the use of voluntary drawing lessons. The students participating in the additional drawing lessons were treated as a separate experimental group, and their data were analyzed individually to look for differences as compared to the non‐participating control group. These broad questions were further analyzed using the following, specific research questions: Do students report using a greater variety and frequency of visual approaches after the experimental interventions? Is there a specific kind of student who most benefits from instruction in visual skills? Are the students who self‐report as visual learners gaining more benefit than those who do not? Or, do students who may not already be thinking visually receive more benefit? Do mental rotation scores improve more in students receiving a visual skills intervention? Do students like learning visual skills? Do students report greater satisfaction with their learning when visual skills are taught alongside course content? Is there a correlation between use of visual approaches to learning and final grades in the lab or lecture portions of any of the tested courses? Preliminary results on each of these questions have shown very few statistically significant results, but some broad trends have been observed. Students with higher visual literacy and mental rotation scores use and like visual studying methods more than students with lower score on visual metrics. Students with low visual literacy and mental rotation scores do not necessarily perform poorer on course learning assessments, but tend to spend more time using passive learning approaches, such as memorization via flashcards. The experimental interventions provided did not yield statistically significant changes in any of the measures of student performance, but the voluntary nature of the interventions may have led to a student‐selection bias that diluted the final results. These trends taken together indicate that instruction in visual approaches to learning may have benefits to students, but those benefits may not be apparent on multiple choice course examinations which reward passive memorization. It is also apparent that instructional interventions should be a mandatory part of the course to ensure participation by the students most likely to benefit. Support or Funding Information AAA Educational Research Scholarship
SCImago Journal Rank1.709

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