Research in Science Education

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 383–399

Students' Understandings of Human Organs and Organ Systems

  • Michael J. Reiss
  • Sue Dale Tunnicliffe

DOI: 10.1023/A:1013116228261

Cite this article as:
Reiss, M.J. & Tunnicliffe, S.D. Research in Science Education (2001) 31: 383. doi:10.1023/A:1013116228261


How do people develop their understanding of what is inside them? This study looks at students' understandings of their internal structure. A cross-sectional approach was used involving a total of 158 students in England from six different age groups (ranging from four year old students to first year undergraduates). Students were given a blank piece of A4-sized paper and asked to draw what they thought was inside themselves. Repeated inspections of the completed drawings allowed us to construct a seven point scale of these representations. Our analysis shows the extent to which student understanding increases with age and the degree to which students know more about some organs and organ systems than others. While gender differences in the drawings were generally not large there were some intriguing differences in the ways males and females drew reproductive organs.

anatomy biology education drawings understandings and sex 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Reiss
    • 1
  • Sue Dale Tunnicliffe
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of EducationUniversity of LondonUK

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