Microanatomy courses in U.S. and Canadian medical schools, 1991-92

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BACKGROUND. Many medical schools are reevaluating their approaches to teaching the basic and clinical sciences, yet there is little systematic information available about how specific courses are being taught. METHOD. A detailed questionnaire was sent to 139 U.S. and Canadian medical schools to obtain information about microanatomy courses in 1991–92. RESULTS. Overall, 114 (82%) of the schools responded. The responses showed that microanatomy courses were including more cell biology and related material in their curricula, and that many were coordinating subject presentation with other basic science courses. The courses relied primarily on lecture-based teaching for non-laboratory material and structured laboratory exercises for laboratory material. New approaches, such as small-group, problem-solving sessions, were being introduced slowly; most of the courses used faculty-provided learning objectives. Computer-aided instruction had been introduced at a small number of schools, usually in the form of self-instructional packages or reviews. Multiple-choice written examinations and short-answer practical examinations were usually used to assess student knowledge; computer-based testing was rare. CONCLUSION. The microanatomy curricula tended to be relatively conventional. The primary barrier to the introduction of computer-aided instruction may be the wide-spread use of other self-instructional tools that are effective and less expensive to develop and maintain. Because of the trend toward fewer student contact hours, the adoption of problem-based learning at the course level could have a significant negative impact on the amount of microanatomy material that could be covered.

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