Experiential Learning, Spatial Visualization and Metacognition: An Exercise with the “Blank Page” Technique for Learning Anatomy

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Naug, Helen
Colson, Natalie
Donner, Dan
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Purpose: Undergraduate students in the allied health science disciplines are normally required to complete a human anatomy course in their first year. Such courses, while popular, present challenges in that the content requires students to engage different approaches to learning. Recent literature reflects an increased interest in active, experiential learning activities to improve the learning of anatomy and physiology, but activities that focus on the development of metacognitive skills and visual-spatial thinking have been lacking. To address these inadequacies we developed a plasticine modeling and drawing activity in a tutorial room devoid of resources and visual cues referred to as the “blank page” room. The purpose of this manuscript is to communicate the merits of this intervention as an instructional technique used to facilitate the learning of anatomy for undergraduates of allied health disciplines. Method: During anatomy laboratory sessions we randomly allocated student groups to the activity of plasticine modeling and drawing (blank page technique) or the completion of written review questions. We compared the grades achieved by students who had been exposed to the blank page intervention with the grades achieved by students who were given standard review questions. We also collected qualitative feedback in the form of questionnaires that required participating students to rate the learning efficacy of the activities. Results: Students performed slightly better on assessment quizzes after the blank page activity compared with the review questions. Student feedback indicated that the blank page activity had greater learning value and promoted stronger engagement in the learning tasks. Discussion: The blank page activity has merit in student engagement and facilitation of the learning of anatomy by broadening the scope of instruction to encompass multimodal learning preferences, metacognition and visual spatial thinking.

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Health Professions Education

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© 2016 King Saud bin AbdulAziz University for Health Sciences. Production and Hosting by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/) which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, providing that the work is properly cited.

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Medicine, nursing and health curriculum and pedagogy

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