European Journal of Anatomy

Official Journal of The Spanish Society of Anatomy
Cover Volume 11 - Number S1
Eur J Anat, 11 (S1): 89-93 (2007)

Considerations in students' learning of anatomical terminology

Wilkinson A.T.

Anatomy, Division of Basic Medical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Ireland; Division of Basic Medical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Whitla Medical Building, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT Each subject discipline has its own language. Many anatomical terms are based on Latin or Greek, so students unfamiliar with either and learning anatomy for the first time often struggle with the terminology. A study was therefore conducted to investigate whether knowing the meaning of an anatomical term helped students recognise the anatomical structure, and whether identifying an associated English word assisted them to work out its meaning. Second-year biomedical science students doing a module on topographical anatomy were first presented with a list of largely unfamiliar anatomical terms and asked to give the meaning of each term and the anatomical structure it describes. On a second occasion, the students attempted to relate different terms to known English words and again tried to work out their meanings. Thirdly, they were asked whether they thought that knowing the meaning of the anatomical terms assisted their learning of anatomy. Not surprisingly, correct identification of anatomical structures that had already been introduced in the topographical module was good (65-91% of students), whereas for new terms, identification was poor (0-39%), even if their meaning was known. Giving correct meanings for the terms varied widely (0-83%), as did correctly providing a related English word (0-95%). All students thought that knowing the meaning of anatomical terms assisted their learning. The study demonstrated that these students were not adept at identifying unfamiliar anatomical terms, either directly or through association with known English words. Although student perception is that understanding is rewarded by better retention, more evidence needs to be provided before this can be confirmed.

Keywords: conference paper, learning, medical education, medical information, medical student, nomenclature, topography

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