Uncovering assumptions about the introduction of concept mapping to first year students of anatomy and physiology

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background: Students working towards a degree in the Health Sciences and required to undertake a first year subject in anatomy and physiology vary significantly in their education prior to university (Anderton, Evans et al. 2016). Unfortunately, some of these students drop out or decide to repeat these subjects before progressing in their chosen field (Entezari and Javdan 2016, Schutte 2016). In this study, we wanted to understand how to better engage such students with the view of fostering academic success in this subject. We introduced concept mapping as a learning activity and also as a means for comparing the quality of learning about skeletal anatomy. This work adds to the limited research on the use of concept mapping in the teaching and learning of anatomy and physiology.
Method: Phase 1: Students completed a concept mapping exercise to indicate what they already knew about the structure of the human skeletal system. Phase 2: Students were assigned to either the experimental or control condition. The experimental group completed a body painting activity. The control group undertook the regular assigned laboratory activities, which included labelling and looking at models of the skeleton. Phase 3: Students completed the same concept mapping task as in Phase 1 and they also completed a short evaluation survey.
Results: Overall, 91% of the groups attempted to construct a concept map and 72% of those maps contained linking phrases. Despite random allocation of students to groups, those in the control condition showed more engagement with the concept mapping task (See Table 1). Qualitative survey data showed that the control group commented more about their actual learning (n = 10 of 21 responses), whereas the experimental group wrote more about ‘fun’ (n = 8 of 25 responses). Those in the experimental group were also more likely refer to the learning activity as ‘visual’ (n= 6 of 25 responses).
Table 1. Concept map analysis data by group.
Phase 1 (n=47) Phase 3 (n=47)
Attempted concept map Included linking phrases Attempted concept map Included linking phrases
Regular Laboratory Activities 95% 86% 95% 81%
Body Painting 88% 59% 77% 76%
Conclusions: Brief text-based instruction was found to be insufficient in producing concept maps with linking phrases. This study suggests that one cannot assume that students will learn to construct concept maps in a short time frame. An initial scaffolded concept mapping learning task would likely have enabled these first year students to better employ the technique, especially when it is used in conjunction with other visual teaching methods like body painting.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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