From college to clinic: Reasoning over memorization is key for understanding anatomy



Anatomy and physiology are taught in community colleges, liberal arts colleges, universities, and medical schools. The goals of the students vary, but educators in these diverse settings agree that success hinges on learning concepts rather than memorizing facts. In this article, educators from across the postsecondary educational spectrum expand on several points: (1) There is a problem with student perception that anatomy is endless memorization, whereas the ability to manage information and use reasoning to solve problems are ways that professionals work. This misperception causes students to approach the subject with the wrong attitude. (2) The process of learning to use information is as important as the concepts themselves. Using understanding to explain and make connections is a more useful long-term lesson than is memorization. Anatomy should be presented and learned as a dynamic basis for problem solving and for application in the practice and delivery of quality health care. (3) Integration of form and function must be explicit and universal across all systems. (4) Using only models, images, audiovisuals, or computers cannot lead students to the requisite reasoning that comes from investigative dissection of real tissue. (5) Some undergraduate courses require students to memorize excessive musculoskeletal detail. (6) Learning tissue biology is a particular struggle for medical students who have no background from an undergraduate course. (7) Medical professors and students see benefits when students have taken undergraduate courses in anatomy, histology, and physiology. If medical schools suggest these electives to applicants, medical students might arrive better prepared and, thus, be able to learn clinical correlations more efficiently in the limited allocated time of medical school curricula. Anat Rec (New Anat) 269:69–80, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.