Advancing anatomy education through an action research paradigm
Instructors teaching professional courses must be willing to continually assess the effectiveness of their courses and make changes when appropriate. Evaluation data from the medical neuroscience course at the Indiana University School of Medicine-Lafayette indicated students' dissatisfaction with the laboratory portion of the course. In response, the instructors initiated this project to create the effective learning environment required to advance student knowledge and attitude. ^ Using the cyclic action research methodology, a set of active learning modules were developed and implemented over a period of three years. The modules employed hands-on activities, incorporated collaborative teamwork, and provided timely feedback. Various types of collected data confirmed that students were highly satisfied with the new lab regarding it as efficient, effective, and engaging. ^ The overwhelming success of the neuroscience laboratory project prompted the application of a similar active learning module in the lab of an anatomy course offered to upper level undergraduates at Purdue University. The new approach resulted in significantly higher exam scores. Furthermore, student surveys indicated remarkable preference for the new approach. ^ By combining sound educational principles with faculty that were committed to improvement, these research projects provided the systemic, rigorous, and data driven framework necessary to create successful learning experiences for students. Such a system can be used to improve courses at any educational level.^
James J. Walker, Purdue University.
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