Cadaver case studies: learning from the past, a pilot study.


Assess physical therapy (PT) students’ perception of learning in association with development and presentation of case studies related to pathologies discovered in cadavers.
Case studies are valued as a teaching method in healthcare education due to their ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice as well as promote students to use higher levels of learning including application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Barkley, Cross, and Major 2005). Gross Anatomy II (PT 6800) is a course taught at Georgia State University (GSU) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program for the 1st year students. Requirements for this course includes joint dissection in which small groups perform extensive, detailed dissection of 2-3 specific joints in the anatomy laboratory. In the case study approach, students are required to research a clinical question relative to discovered pathology in one of the joints, and then provide a written and oral report that synthesizes the observed pathology with current evidence regarding the condition. Finally, the students present their findings to the class as a 15-minute teaching module or in the annual GSU Continuing Education Conference which includes direct lab instruction.


Subjects included 23 volunteers of 36 students in one cohort (class of 2016) of the GSU DPT program.
Student groups presented 11 case studies to the class or to licensed physical therapists at the annual GSU Continuing Education Conference in the spring of 2014. At the completion of the Fall 2014 semester students were polled using Survey Monkey to determine the students’ perceptions on how the cadaver case study learning experience had impacted their current anatomical knowledge as well as relevant didactic classes that followed. The survey consisted of six questions related to the cadaver case study experience. Responses to the questions consisted of a 0-4 Likert scale with 0 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree).


A frequency distribution was used to evaluate the responses.
46% and 47% of students strongly agreed or agreed respectively that the cadaver case study was a good learning experience, assisted with learning in other classes, and promoted long-term retention of the material.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education

PT students’ indicated a positive perception of learning in association with development and presentation of case studies related to pathologies discovered in cadavers. Our plan is to use this model of cadaver case studies as a continued source of study for didactic courses throughout the student’s curriculum and develop a learning model to be considered for other healthcare programs.
We anticipate that exposing students to advanced levels of learning through case studies that explore normal and pathologic anatomy could promote a salient, long term learning process that will persist in future didactic and clinical course work.


Barkley, E. F, Cross, K. P. & Major, C. H. (2005) Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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  • Control #: 2288739
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Dr. James Lewis, Deon Thompson, Mary Thigpen
  • Keywords:

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