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Year 2020

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Shastrakar and Nakhate: Evaluation of teaching methods in anatomy : A study on first year medical students


Anatomy is most widely studied subject amongst the medical and allied students. It is a vast subject having multiple subheadings. All first year students spend most of their study time in reading Anatomy. Inspite of studying more, students find it difficult to reproduce and recollect Anatomy. It has maximum hours of teaching among preclinical subjects. So considering all these facts it is essential to make subject easy for students. Teaching learning in Anatomy can be made easy by modifying the traditional anatomy education delivered by didactic lectures and cadaveric dissection. Curriculum in Anatomy should be delivered by combining different methods of teaching like computer assisted, problem based learning, self-directed and directed self-learning in addition to traditional one.

So the purpose of this study was to find out best possible methods to teach every head of Anatomy by compilation of students preferences and teachers experience.

Materials and Methods

In the present study, a questionnaire was prepared mentioning different methods of teaching every head of Anatomy. This was given to 250 students of first year MBBS 2017 batch in our medical college in the department of Anatomy after they have finished their histology practical’s for preliminary exams. They were told to answer the questionnaire. Study was carried out batch wise over the period of eight days. Survey was carried out on their preferences given to the method of teaching. After completion of the survey, observation and result were tabulated.

Observation and Results

The questionnaire consists of methods of teaching theory and practical. The teaching theory includes didactic lectures and problem based learning. Practicals in anatomy are taught by cadaveric dissection, histology practicals, embryology models, demonstrations in osteology, radiology, and surface and living anatomy. All the possible and feasible methods of teaching were included in the questionnaire. Students’ responses were noted and tabulated and result prepared.

Table 1
Method of Teaching Lectures
Gross Histology Embryology Genetics
Chalk and Talk 1 166 (66%) 59 (23.6%) 56 (22.4%) 60 (24%)
2 70 (28%) 96 (38.4%) 60 (24%) 66 (26.4%)
3 24 (9.6%) 60 (24%) 114 (45.6%) 84 (33.6%)
4 12 (4.8%) 35 (14%) 20 (8%) 40 (16%)
TOHP 1 24 (9.6%) 34 (13.6%) 20 (8%) 68 (27.2%)
2 30 (12%) 60 (24%) 54 (21.6%) 56 (22.4%)
3 119 (47%) 67 (26.8%) 80 (32%) 84 (33.6%)
4 77 (30.8%) 89 (35.6%) 96 (38.4%) 42 (16.8%)
PPT and 3D Animation 1 72 (28%) 135 (54%) 169 (67.6%) 146 (58.4%)
2 115 (46%) 65 (26%) 38 (15.2%) 60 (24%)
3 45 (18%) 38 (15.2%) 30 (12%) 37 (14.8%)
4 18 (7.2%) 12 (4.8%) 13 (5.2%) 7 (2.8%)

A: Theory: Method of teaching and response of students in didactic lectures in different categories

Method of teaching

Responses: - 1. Best 2. Good 3. Average and 4. Bad

Problem based learning was preferred by 60 (24%) over didactic lectures. Students preferred problem based learning in gross anatomy only.

Table 2
Practicals No. of students (%)
Dissection Cadaveric 176 (70.4%)
Virtual 74 (29.6%)
Histology Practical Light Microscopic 148 (59.2%)
Computer Assisted 102 (40.8%)
Osteology Demonstrations Real Bones 216 (86.4%)
Pop Models 34 (13.6%)
Organs Real Organs 231 (92.4 %)
Pop Models 19 (7.6%)
Surface And Living Anatomy Real Subjects 189 (75.6%)
Computer Assisted 61 (24.4%)

B: Practicals: Method of teaching and response of students in practicals in different categories

As it seen from above tables, students have preferred didactic lectures over problem based learning provided that it should be associated with computer assisted methods.

Almost 166 (66%) students found chalk and talk method best for gross anatomy lectures whereas 70 (28%) found it good and 12 (4.8%) found it bad. Tranparency and overhead projector was average method 119 (47%) and bad by 77 (30.8%). Power point and 3D animations were good method according to 115 (46%) and best by 72 (28%) students. For teaching histology, 135 (54%) students found power point and 3 D animation as the best method whereas chalk and talk as good method by 96 (38.4%). TOH was graded as bad method by 89 (38.4%). Lectures in embryology need models to explain to the students. As taking models to lecture hall is not possible every time, 3D animations can be shown to them. 169 (69.6%) students selected PPT and 3D animation as the best method for lecture followed by chalk and talk as average by 114 (45.6%). Lectures on genetics according to 146 (58.4%) students were best taught by power point, 3D animations. Chalk and talk and TOHP are graded as average methods by 84 (33.6%) of students (Table 1).

When the question of teaching practicals in Anatomy comes, dissection stands the method of choice for gross anatomy. 176 (70.4%) students preferred cadaveric dissection over videos or power point presentation of dissection. Histology practical was best taught by observing slide under light microscope as stated by 148 (59.2%) students. But students have also suggested that the photomicrograph of the slides should be shown prior to practicals (Table 2).

Demonstrations in Anatomy are very important as it involves small group teaching and rapport between student and teacher. 216 (86.4 %) and 231 (92.4%) students preferred real bones and real organs respectively for study over pop models. According to 189 (75.6%) students, surface and living anatomy are best taught on living subjects and should be associated with prior videos demonstrating the methods.


Anatomy takes the major share in the preclinical subjects. Teaching and learning anatomy and making it easier for students, remains the challenging task for teachers. In the present study, it was observed that students preferred didactic lectures (76%) over problem based learning. According to students, problem based learning lacks detailed description of anatomy of particular topic. Bergman et al1 noted that innovations in undergraduate medical education like integration of disciplines and problem based learning concerned, student perceived deficiencies in their anatomical knowledge when started clinical training. For studying gross anatomy, maximum number of students preferred chalk and board method of lecture delivery (66%) followed by Power Point and 3 D animations. According to Singh et al,2 traditional chalkboard method using simple diagrams which students can draw are excellent teaching tool ensuring active participation of learners. In current study, it is seen that for teaching histology (54%) and embryology (69.6%) students preferred teaching by Power Point and 3D animations followed by slide observation under microscope and studying embryology models for embryology. Boddeti et al3 had same observations as in present study for teaching histology and embryology.

As far as conduct of practicals are concerned cadaveric dissection stood the most favored method to learn gross anatomy by students. Patel et al4 observed that cadaveric dissection gained importance as skill base approach rather than only knowledge base teaching in Anatomy. Samy et al5 stated that students agreed that dissection deepened their understanding of anatomical structures, provided them with a three dimensional perspective of structures and helped them of recall what they learnt. Students found real bones and real organs best for studying rather than pop models. According to Patil et al,6 pop models cannot replace real viscera but they can be shown during lectures. Huitt et al7 found that implementing problem based learning has been a challenge, as the first year medical students have had little or no previous exposure to active learning and team work. As stated by Ghosh et al8 innovative methods of teaching and learning are very important as they promote critical thinking, problem solving skills, communication and team work.

As physicians daily come across anatomy in their everyday clinical practice through living anatomy, it is therefore essential to teach students anatomy right from the beginning.9 It is a widely held view that dissection gives students a 3D view of human anatomy and reinforces knowledge acquired in lectures.10,11 According to John et al12 any teaching material that engage students in activities in which they must interact with the material are worth investigating.


There is no single best method for teaching and learning Anatomy as observed from above discussion. Considering the objectives of anatomy curriculum most of the academicians suggest integrated approach to the Anatomy. It will procure interest in the subject as against monotonous didactic lectures. Teaching and learning Anatomy remains the most challenging task for teachers and students considering the time constraint and scarcity of cadavers. In this particular study cadaveric dissection remains the method of choice for learning and teaching gross anatomy as it gives hands on fee. For teaching theory combination of more than one method, old and new should be employed. However, the learning benefits of every method should be evaluated and learners should be provided with multiple resources. This approach will lead to production of competent medical graduates.

Source of funding


Conflict of interest




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