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Keywords:

  • gross anatomy;
  • undergraduate teaching;
  • medical students;
  • body painting;
  • living anatomy

Abstract

One hundred and thirty-three preclinical medical students participated in 24 focus groups over the period 2007–2009 at Durham University. Focus groups were conducted to ascertain whether or not medical students found body painting anatomical structures to be an educationally beneficial learning activity. Data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Five principal themes emerged: (1) body painting as a fun learning activity, (2) body painting promoting retention of knowledge, (3) factors contributing to the memorability of body painting, (4) removal from comfort zone, and (5) the impact of body painting on students' future clinical practice. Students perceive body painting to be a fun learning activity, which aids their retention of the anatomical knowledge acquired during the session. Sensory factors, such as visual stimuli, especially color, and the tactile nature of the activity, promote recall. Students' preference for painting a peer or being painted is often dependent upon their learning style, but there are educational benefits for both roles. The moderate amounts of undressing involved encouraging students to consider issues surrounding body image; this informs their attitudes towards future patients. Body painting is a useful adjunct to traditional anatomy and clinical skills teaching. The fun element involved in the delivery of this teaching defuses the often formal academic context, which in turn promotes a positive learning environment. Anat Sci Educ 3:33–38, 2010. © 2009 American Association of Anatomists.