Cadaver case studies: An accelerated learning model for 1st year DPT students


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 instruction is commonly taught at a lower level of learning yet incorporating case studies related to discovered pathologies during dissection can encourage declarative (explicit) learning which can enhance long term memory storage (Kandel, Schwartz, Jessell, eds. 2000) as to be used in future advanced didactive course work.


Student groups from a DPT first year gross anatomy class presented 11 case studies to the class or to licensed physical therapist at an annual 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).


23 volunteers of 36 students in one cohort (class of 2016) of a DPT program responded to the survey. 46% and 47% (93% total) 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: The Pursuit of Excellence in 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. 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.Our plan is to use this model of cadaver case studies as a continued source of study revisited in future didactic courses throughout the student’s curriculum. Comparing our student learning outcomes as related to retrieval of anatomical knowledge to other DPT programs is under consideration to determine best teaching models.


Barkley, E.F, Cross, K.P. & Major, C.H. (2005) Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kandel E.R, Schwartz J.H, Jessell T.M, eds. (2000) Principles of neuroscience, 4th ed. New York: Mcgraw-Hill.

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  • Control #: 2519085
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Dr. James Lewis, Deon Thompson, Mary Thigpen
  • Keywords:

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