Strategies to improve student achievement and recall of medical anatomy: A qualitative and quantitative study

Peter J Ward, Purdue University


This study was a qualitative and quantitative investigation of the study methods used by first-year veterinary medical anatomy students and how these study methods affected their academic success and long term recall of information. The quantitative studies demonstrated that no single study method corresponded to academic success or long term recall. However, the students who succeeded used a multitude of study methods while the struggling students relied on a single method alone, although that method varied from student to student. One interesting finding was that the successful students employed both active and passive study methods to good effect and that active methods produced no discernable advantage in their grades and only a slight increase in their long term recall after one year. What became apparent during the qualitative phenomenographic analysis of student interviews was that the activity or passivity of the study methods was secondary to the way in which the students processed the learning. Students who processed the information in a deep integrative way not only succeeded in the class but also had better recall. Students who relied on a memorization-heavy surface approach to learning had poor recall and tended to do badly in the class. Case studies of fifteen key students who used a variety of study strategies were conducted to illuminate what factors made some study strategies high-yield for some students but not others. This study concludes with hints to both medical students and educators which are intended to serve as a guide to immediate success as well as a long-term appreciation of the learning.




Walker, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Veterinary services|Higher education

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