Building an open academic environment – a new approach to empowering students in their learning of anatomy through ‘Shadow Modules’



Teaching and learning in anatomy is undertaken by a variety of methodologies, yet all of these pedagogies benefit from students discussing and reflecting upon their learning activities. An approach of particular potency is peer-mediated learning, through either peer-teaching or collaborative peer-learning. Collaborative, peer-mediated, learning activities help promote deep learning approaches and foster communities of practice in learning. Students generally flourish in collaborative learning settings but there are limitations to the benefits of collaborative learning undertaken solely within the confines of modular curricula. We describe the development of peer-mediated learning through student-focused and student-led study groups we have termed ‘Shadow Modules’. The ‘Shadow Module’ takes place parallel to the formal academically taught module and facilitates collaboration between students to support their learning for that module. In ‘Shadow Module’ activities, students collaborate towards curating existing online open resources as well as developing learning resources of their own to support their study. Through the use of communication technologies and Web 2.0 tools these resources are able to be shared with their peers, thus enhancing the learning experience of all students following the module. The Shadow Module activities have the potential to lead to participants feeling a greater sense of engagement with the subject material, as well as improving their study and group-working skills and developing digital literacy. The outputs from Shadow Module collaborative work are open-source and may be utilised by subsequent student cohorts, thus building up a repository of learning resources designed by and for students. Shadow Module activities would benefit all pedagogies in the study of anatomy, and support students moving from being passive consumers to active participants in learning.