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Use of a Digital, Profession-Specific Dissection Guide Is Associated with Improved Examination Performance and Student Satisfaction


Anatomical knowledge is requisite for effective physical therapy (PT) practice. Cadaver dissection is a popular teaching method employed in PT anatomy courses. Limited time in the laboratory requires effective dissection instructions. Several limitations of a printed, non-discipline specific dissection guide have been identified by students and instructors in anatomy curricula. The objective of this project was to evaluate the effect of using a digital, PT specific dissection guide on examination performance and student satisfaction. A digital guide was developed that incorporated improvements based on observations of student experiences using a printed guide. The digital guide covered two lower extremity regional dissections and was distributed for use during the summer 2017 course. Enhancements included clarification of dissection procedures, formative quizzes, image galleries, embedded videos, and a glossary of terms. Students used a printed guide for all other dissections in the course. The percentage of correct answers from practical examinations was calculated and compared between summer of 2015 (print) and 2017 (digital) courses. A survey consisting of nineteen five-point Likert items was distributed. The percentage of correct answers was significantly higher for the digital guide (91.7 ± 7.11%) compared with the print guide (84.2 ± 9.51%, P < 0.0001). On the survey, the median item rating was strongly agree for two, agree for fifteen, and neither agree or disagree for two. These results suggest that developing a curriculum specific, digital guide was effective in improving student knowledge and satisfaction. These results encourage development of additional content specific guides in a digital format.

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We thank Drs. Nancey Bookstein and Cindy Armstrong for feedback on a draft of the dissection guide, the students for their willing participation, and the donors and their families for making this research possible.

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Correspondence to Michael A. Pascoe.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (Colorado Multiple Institutional Review Board, Protocol #16-2626) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in this study.

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Pascoe, M.A., Betts, K. Use of a Digital, Profession-Specific Dissection Guide Is Associated with Improved Examination Performance and Student Satisfaction. Med.Sci.Educ. 30, 1025–1034 (2020).

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  • Gross anatomy laboratory
  • Technology-enhanced learning
  • Learning outcomes
  • eBook
  • Dissection guide
  • Digital assets