ANATOMY: ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE LEARNING
Anatomy is a basic course in medicine and many health allied professions curriculum (e.g. nursing, physiotherapy, communication disorders etc.). In the last decades many medical schools reached the understanding that teaching strategy should shift from passive to active learning, from teacher responsibility to student responsibility and from pure morphological description to more clinical oriented studies. Following the above, many schools modified their anatomy course, heavily relying on computer programs.
In the last three years a new anatomy program is running at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Israel. The new program was developed to overcome several growing challenges: a. Time becomes valuable in medical schools because of the explosive growth of medical knowledge. This places pressure on traditional courses, mainly anatomy. Designing courses that produce students with less understanding of human anatomy is not a viable option. b. The understanding that in the 21st century the learning method should apply with the technology advancement and to utilize the computation abilities of today's students. c. The quality of bodies – most of the cadavers are over 80 years of age, thus in many cases essential structures are not well preserved and therefore cannot provide the students with spatial views of the structures. d. Time spent on dissection is disproportional to the knowledge gain. e. Teachers for anatomy are becoming “endangered species”. e. The understanding that one of the main diagnosing tool today and in the future is radiology.
Four major principles guided us in planning the new anatomy course: 1. combination of new technologies; 2. Inclusion of interactive exercises that require problem solving and provide immediate feedback; 3. Clinical oriented anatomy; and 4. students should assess patients as living organism through examination and imaging investigation and not treat them as educational tools or specimens.
The new program additional to frontal lectures and cadaver dissections relies on computer-based self learning using instructions and worksheets for self assessment, thus encourages active learning and promotes the development of life-long independent learning skills. In this learning method the responsibility is shifted from the teacher to the student. The student is no longer a passive element in the course but an active participant. The self-learning component is based on web interactive 3D images including questions for self assessment. In addition, this program includes the integration of radiology (CT and MRI) and radiologists which introduce the clinical aspect of anatomy. To assess whether the course has achieved its goals, a survey was conducted in three consecutive years (2009-2011). It was found that the new course better prepare the medical students to their clinical career.