DOI: 10.1002/ase.2362 ISSN: 1935-9772

A comparison of pre‐ and post‐clinical education learning preferences among medical students who elected to dissect compared to those who did not during the COVID‐19 pandemic

Collin G. Liang, Masako Matsunaga, Melia Takakusagi, J DeMeo, Jesse D. Thompson, Christoph Rettenmeier, Güneş Aytaç, U‐Young Lee, Scott Lozanoff
  • Embryology
  • General Medicine
  • Histology
  • Anatomy


Anatomy instructional methods varied widely during the COVID‐19 pandemic and programs are assessing innovations for retention. Learning preferences were assessed among medical students dichotomized as elective dissectors (ED) or non‐dissectors (ND) during the COVID‐19 partial re‐opening in 2020 (preclinical) and again in 2022 after clinical exposure (post‐clinical) to assess the viability of elective dissection post‐pandemic. A mixed‐method approach was used for the assessment of test scores, learning preference surveys, learning activities rankings, and thematic analyses. No significant differences occurred in anatomy examination scores. Dissection was considered useful by both preclinical groups but significantly more so by ED, while the presence of an instructor was significantly preferred by ED although a majority of ND agreed. Elective dissection was significantly preferred by ND but also by a large minority of ED students. Pre‐ and post‐clinical ND believed that elective dissection offered more academic flexibility, did not hinder clinical learning, and did not negatively impact medical education. The corresponding ED stated that confidence improved, clinical experiences were enhanced, and dissection was irreplaceable. Preclinical ND preferred self‐learning, while ED students preferred online learning, but these differences largely disappeared post‐clinically. Learning activity rankings were not significantly different among all groups (ND, ED, preclinical, and post‐clinical). A hybrid laboratory with a virtual learning environment ranked highest across groups and preferences increased over time suggesting that students benefited from this instructional method during clinical exposure. The absence of laboratory experience ranked lowest, and preference decreased over time suggesting that anatomy dissection is valued.

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