Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 573–585 | Cite as

From anatomical ‘competence’ to complex capability. The views and experiences of UK tutors on how we should teach anatomy to medical students

  • Sam Regan de BereEmail author
  • Karen Mattick


Developments in clinical education have recently challenged the identity of anatomy teaching and learning, leading to high profile debate over the potential implications for the competence levels of new doctors. However, the emphasis remains on methods of teaching, rather than a review of what well-rounded anatomical learning actually entails, and how teaching can address contemporary learning needs. This paper identifies and addresses some of these issues, drawing on expert views captured in qualitative research with anatomy tutors at twenty different medical schools in the UK. Three main themes emerging from our analysis are described: anatomy as a subject matter, the challenges of teaching or learning anatomy, and the use of teaching methods. We also detail how inductive analysis generated new hypotheses worthy of further consideration. These fall into two key categories: (1) improving anatomy curriculum design and (2) advancing anatomy education research.


Anatomy teaching and learning Clinical relevance Complex capability Qualitative interviews Theoretical perspectives 



This paper is drawn from the findings of the following project funded by the Higher Education Academy: Mattick, K and Regan de Bere, S. Is Anatomy Different? A Survey of Views of UK Anatomy Tutors. Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry and Vetinary Medicine (MEDEV). 2008. We would also like to acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Rick Bowers, who led the project in the design and development phase of the study.

Ethical approval was granted by the Committee for Ethics at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Clinical Education, Peninsula College of Medicine & DentistryUniversities of Exeter and PlymouthPlymouthUK

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