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ERIC Number: ED534546
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 329
Abstractor: As Provided
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1249-7635-8
The Importance of Spatial Ability and Mental Models in Learning Anatomy
Chatterjee, Allison K.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Purdue University
As a foundational course in medical education, gross anatomy serves to orient medical and veterinary students to the complex three-dimensional nature of the structures within the body. Understanding such spatial relationships is both fundamental and crucial for achievement in gross anatomy courses, and is essential for success as a practicing professional. Many things contribute to learning spatial relationships; this project focuses on a few key elements: (1) the type of multimedia resources, particularly computer-aided instructional (CAI) resources, medical students used to study and learn; (2) the influence of spatial ability on medical and veterinary students' gross anatomy grades and their mental models; and (3) how medical and veterinary students think about anatomy and describe the features of their mental models to represent what they know about anatomical structures. The use of computer-aided instruction (CAI) by gross anatomy students at Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) was assessed through a questionnaire distributed to the regional centers of the IUSM. Students reported using internet browsing, PowerPoint presentation software, and email on a daily bases to study gross anatomy. This study reveals that first-year medical students at the IUSM make limited use of CAI to study gross anatomy. Such studies emphasize the importance of examining students' use of CAI to study gross anatomy prior to development and integration of electronic media into the curriculum and they may be important in future decisions regarding the development of alternative learning resources. In order to determine how students think about anatomical relationships and describe the features of their mental models, personal interviews were conducted with select students based on students' ROT scores. Five typologies of the characteristics of students' mental models were identified and described: spatial thinking, kinesthetic approach, identification of anatomical structures, problem solving strategies, and study methods. Students with different levels of spatial ability visualize and think about anatomy in qualitatively different ways, which is reflected by the features of their mental models. Low spatial ability students thought about and used two-dimensional images from the textbook. They possessed basic two-dimensional models of anatomical structures; they placed emphasis on diagrams and drawings in their studies; and they re-read anatomical problems many times before answering. High spatial ability students thought fully in three-dimensional and imagined rotation and movement of the structures; they made use of many types of images and text as they studied and solved problems. They possessed elaborate three-dimensional models of anatomical structures which they were able to manipulate to solve problems; and they integrated diagrams, drawings, and written text in their studies. Middle spatial ability students were a mix between both low and high spatial ability students. They imagined two-dimensional images popping out of the flat paper to become more three-dimensional, but still relied on drawings and diagrams. Additionally, high spatial ability students used a higher proportion of anatomical terminology than low spatial ability or middle spatial ability students. This provides additional support to the premise that high spatial students' mental models are a complex mixture of imagistic representations and propositional representations that incorporate correct anatomical terminology. Low spatial ability students focused on the function of structures and ways to group information primarily for the purpose of recall. This supports the theory that low spatial students' mental models will be characterized by more on imagistic representations that are general in nature. (Abstract shortened by UMI.) [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Indiana