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ERIC Number: EJ1139101
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Jun
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1043-4046
Drawing on Student Knowledge of Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology
Slominski, Tara N.; Momsen, Jennifer L.; Montplaisir, Lisa M.
Advances in Physiology Education, v41 n2 p212-221 Jun 2017
Drawings are an underutilized assessment format in Human Anatomy and Physiology (HA&P), despite their potential to reveal student content understanding and alternative conceptions. This study used student-generated drawings to explore student knowledge in a HA&P course. The drawing tasks in this study focused on chemical synapses between neurons, an abstract concept in HA&P. Using two preinstruction drawing tasks, students were asked to depict synaptic transmission and summation. In response to the first drawing task, 20% of students (n = 352) created accurate representations of neuron anatomy. The remaining students created drawings suggesting an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of synaptic transmission. Of the 208 inaccurate student-generated drawings, 21% depicted the neurons as touching. When asked to illustrate summation, only 10 students (roughly 4%) were able to produce an accurate drawing. Overall, students were more successful at drawing anatomy (synapse) than physiology (summation) before formal instruction. The common errors observed in student-generated drawings indicate students do not enter the classroom as blank slates. The error of "touching" neurons in a chemical synapse suggests that students may be using intuitive or experiential knowledge when reasoning about physiological concepts. These results 1) support the utility of drawing tasks as a tool to reveal student content knowledge about neuroanatomy and neurophysiology; and 2) suggest students enter the classroom with better knowledge of anatomy than physiology. Collectively, the findings from this study inform both practitioners and researchers about the prevalence and nature of student difficulties in HA&P, while also demonstrating the utility of drawing in revealing student knowledge.
American Physiological Society. 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20814-3991. Tel: 301-634-7164; Fax: 301-634-7241; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE0833268