European Journal of Anatomy

Official Journal of The Spanish Society of Anatomy
Cover Volume 23 - Number 6
Eur J Anat, 23 (6): 447-452 (2019)

A qualitative study of how students learn from human cadavers

Jennifer A. Burr1, Rachel C. Winter2, Isabelle Heyerdahl-king3, M. Alistair Warren4, Amelia K. Redman5, Oliver Nicholls6

1ScHARR, University of Sheffield, UK, 2Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, UK , 3Medical Teaching Unit; University of Sheffield, UK, 4Medical School; University of Nottingham, UK, 5Medical School; Universi-ty of Sheffield, UK, 6Medical School; University of Sheffield, UK

ABSTRACT Anatomy is a key area of knowledge relevant to many disciplines and cadaveric dissection is a popular and effective option for anatomy teaching for many disciplines. Much of the previous re-search into how students learn from cadaveric dis-section involves students of medicine. This paper revisits key findings reporting research involving medical students outlining the complexity of the issues raised in learning anatomy through cadav-eric dissection. We also present the findings from a small-scale qualitative study, which aimed to ex-plore students from a range of disciplines about their experiences of learning anatomy from human cadavers, conducted over a 12 month period at the University of Sheffield, UK. This included eight first-year medical students, one first-year dentistry student, two students from a post graduate course in the Department of Archaeology, and two second-year biomedical science (BMS) students. The study provides important information about stu-dents, including those outside medicine, and their experiences of learning anatomy from cadaveric dissection. Students could observe anatomical variation and learn though the multisensory experi-ence of dissection. Overall, cadaveric dissection was viewed positively although there was one ex-ception. The most important findings are that there was no suggestion that students objectified thebody, and this is in contrast to previous work in the area. In fact, students disliked the aspect of pro-sections that meant that they were disconnected from their human bodies. The second important finding is the similarities of perceptions across dis-ciplines, and this is a departure from previous re-search, which focuses on medical students. We make some tentative suggestions for the prepara-tion and support for students learning anatomy from cadaveric dissection.

Keywords: Anatomy teaching – Student’s experi-ences – Cadaveric dissection – Qualitative meth-ods – Objectification of cadaver

European Journal of anatomy
ISSN 2340-311X (Online)