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Keywords:

  • gross anatomy education;
  • surface anatomy;
  • living anatomy;
  • learning principles;
  • problem based learning;
  • anatomy teaching;
  • anatomy education;
  • best evidence medical education

Abstract

Anatomy education often consists of a combination of lectures and laboratory sessions, the latter frequently including surface anatomy. Studying surface anatomy enables students to elaborate on their knowledge of the cadaver's static anatomy by enabling the visualization of structures, especially those of the musculoskeletal system, move and function in a living human being. A recent development in teaching methods for surface anatomy is body painting, which several studies suggest increases both student motivation and knowledge acquisition. This article focuses on a teaching approach and is a translational contribution to existing literature. In line with best evidence medical education, the aim of this article is twofold: to briefly inform teachers about constructivist learning theory and elaborate on the principles of constructive, collaborative, contextual, and self-directed learning; and to provide teachers with an example of how to implement these learning principles to change the approach to teaching surface anatomy. Student evaluations of this new approach demonstrate that the application of these learning principles leads to higher student satisfaction. However, research suggests that even better results could be achieved by further adjustments in the application of contextual and self-directed learning principles. Successful implementation and guidance of peer physical examination is crucial for the described approach, but research shows that other options, like using life models, seem to work equally well. Future research on surface anatomy should focus on increasing the students' ability to apply anatomical knowledge and defining the setting in which certain teaching methods and approaches have a positive effect. Anat Sci Educ 6: 114–124. © 2012 American Association of Anatomists.