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Keywords:

  • gross anatomy;
  • physical models;
  • teaching methods;
  • veterinary anatomy education;
  • veterinary imaging;
  • horse;
  • MRI;
  • rapid prototyping

Three-dimensional (3D) information plays an important part in medical and veterinary education. Appreciating complex 3D spatial relationships requires a strong foundational understanding of anatomy and mental 3D visualization skills. Novel learning resources have been introduced to anatomy training to achieve this. Objective evaluation of their comparative efficacies remains scarce in the literature. This study developed and evaluated the use of a physical model in demonstrating the complex spatial relationships of the equine foot. It was hypothesized that the newly developed physical model would be more effective for students to learn magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) anatomy of the foot than textbooks or computer-based 3D models. Third year veterinary medicine students were randomly assigned to one of three teaching aid groups (physical model; textbooks; 3D computer model). The comparative efficacies of the three teaching aids were assessed through students' abilities to identify anatomical structures on MR images. Overall mean MRI assessment scores were significantly higher in students utilizing the physical model (86.39%) compared with students using textbooks (62.61%) and the 3D computer model (63.68%) (P < 0.001), with no significant difference between the textbook and 3D computer model groups (P = 0.685). Student feedback was also more positive in the physical model group compared with both the textbook and 3D computer model groups. Our results suggest that physical models may hold a significant advantage over alternative learning resources in enhancing visuospatial and 3D understanding of complex anatomical architecture, and that 3D computer models have significant limitations with regards to 3D learning. Anat Sci Educ 6: 216–224. © 2013 American Association of Anatomists.