Outcomes of Content Re-sequencing in a Human Gross Anatomy Course in a Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program


This paper is to describe the changes in academic performance after re-sequencing content units of a human gross anatomy course in a graduate level Doctorate of Physical therapy program. Knowledge of human anatomy is crucial for an understanding of the Human Movement System. This study describes how refining the sequencing of anatomy content can help facilitate student acquisition of that knowledge. Anatomy is the first course in the DPT program, occurring as a stand-alone course over 8 weeks in the summer. For all students enrolled, this is their first graduate level course that often requires a significant adjustment period as students transition into graduate school with increased expectations of academic performance. Students typically perform lower on the unit one examinations and demonstrate improved performance as they move through the course.


This cadaver-based human gross anatomy course has historically been delivered in a three content unit design. In the original sequencing, the first content unit covered was the trunk, which included back and abdominal regions, anterior neck, pelvic floor, heart, lungs and abdominal contents. The second unit covered was the lower extremity and the third unit upper extremity.

The instructors made the decision to re-sequence the content units. The lower extremity content was moved forward to the first unit, and the trunk content was pushed back to the second unit. The hypothesis leading to this decision was that physical therapy students entering the DPT program would have a greater familiarity with the content of the lower extremity rather than the more conceptual content of trunk. We proposed that the student’s potential comfort with the lower extremity content would allow a more manageable start to their graduate school experience. Both original and re-sequenced content units were administered by the same two instructors. Both student cohorts were accepted using the same admittance criteria for entry into the DPT program.


After re-sequencing, student’s first unit grades only improved by an average of 1.82 points. After further analysis we discovered that moving the lower extremity content forward, rather then it occurring in the second unit, students had a decrease in performance by 2.36. However, by moving the trunk content back to the second unit, students demonstrated improved performance by an average of 11.55 points, a significant improvement.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

This study demonstrated that by moving anatomy content forward in the course that students have a greater foundational knowledge of, and delaying content that is more conceptually challenging, we may be able to optimize student performance and anatomical knowledge acquisition.


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  • Control #: 2527725
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Teressa Brown, Alia Sullivan
  • Keywords:

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