Computer-Assisted Instruction versus Traditional Instruction in Teaching Human Gross Anatomy

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to determine whether first year entry-level students in a physical therapy master's degree program who were taught human gross anatomy by traditional instruction methods showed a significant difference in their level of gross anatomy subject knowledge from those taught by the use of lecture, computer-assisted instruction (CAI), and prosected cadavers. An ex post facto design was utilized to compare outcomes of 48 entry-level physical therapy master's degree students in 1996 and 1997 using CAI and prosections with outcomes of 102 entry-level physical therapy master's degree students in 1996 and 1997 using traditional cadaver dissection in learning human gross anatomy. The same instructor taught each group. Four written examinations, five practical examinations, and final course grades were analyzed to determine whether there was any significant difference in subject knowledge gained between groups. This investigator found that there was no significant difference between groups on subject knowledge gained in human gross anatomy as determined by the four written examinations, five practical examinations, and final grades for each course. The findings support evidence from the fields of medicine, nursing, and other allied health professions that the use of CAI and prosections is as ef fective as traditional dissection in teaching human gross anatomy to first year entry-level physical therapist students.

Key Words: Computer-assisted instruction, Human gross anatomy, Physical therapy, Prosections.


Anatomy has always been a cornerstone of medical education as well as in the study of physical therapy. It is commonly accepted as the foundation for all other courses in the physical therapy curriculum. Human dissection has been the preferred method of teaching human gross anatomy. Medical science, research, and imaging have advanced significantly over the past 50 years, which requires students and professionals to have a more in-depth understanding of cross-sectional anatomy as well as the 3-dimensional relationship of computergenerated images.2-4 Yet, to date, dissection remains the primary means by which anatomy instructors disseminate knowledge of human gross anatomy, both in medical schools5 and in programs of physical therapy.b Chevrel,z in his 1995 essay, questioned whether the traditional blackboard and cadaver dissection methods were sufficient in preparing students for these more technologically advanced concepts of teaching human gross anatomy. Although universities have traditionally been the medium for change, this is one area in which change has been quite slow.

Beyond the fact that clinical sciences have evolved significantly, the use of cadavers is both costly and time consuming. 1.6 The medical and nursing professions have been looking at alternative methods of teaching human gross anatomy since the early 1960s.R The use of prosections and computer-assisted instruction (CAI) have been explored in the medical, dental, and nursing professions and have generally been found to be at least as effective and efficient, if not more so, than the use of dissection in teaching human gross anatomy. I found no reports pertaining to the use of prosections in teaching human gross anatomy in physical therapy education, nor have there been studies evaluating the efficacy of the use of CAI with prosections versus traditional lecture and dissection in teaching human gross anatomy in the physical therapy curriculum.

In 1996, the Physical Therapy Program of the Touro College School of Health Sciences in Long Island, New York, opened an expansion site in Manhattan. The Long Island campus offers a traditional curriculum, with dissection as the primary mode of teaching human gross anatomy, whereas the Manhattan program developed a computer laboratory, which provides commercially available software for use in teaching human gross anatomy. By use of retrospective analysis, this study evaluated the learning outcomes of both modes of instruction. …


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