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University Honors Program
Kansas State University
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BIOL 340 - Cadaver Dissection Teams at KSU

Credits: (2)

Very few undergraduate courses in the country teach human anatomy from human cadavers. Of these, an even smaller number have both the facilities and the opportunity for undergraduates to have actual dissection experience using human cadavers. At Kansas State University, Cadaver Dissection (CD) students benefit from 1) the challenge of exposure to more anatomical and clinical information, 2) the skills they can acquire by performing human dissections and 3) the enhanced retention they achieve by teaching the anatomy that they learn.

CD teams have been shaped to fit the needs of a particular subset of student who already have shown academic aptitudes and who desire a challenging, small (~6 to 1 student / teacher ratio), and highly interactive group to learn anatomy. CD students do the actual cadaver dissection and are taught anatomy during two additionally scheduled lab times twice a week (total of 4 extra lab hours). They also must learn more material and are tested more rigorously than their peers. Most CD team members are health pre-professionals but applicants in the past have not been excluded based on their major and we have enjoyed history, math, engineering, psychology and other majors within the mix.

My goals for the CD team members exceed just learning subject matter and include some of the following:
• Advancement made in the skills and disciplines relative to carefulness and attention to detail. These outcomes are emphasized in both the student’s studying and their subsequent communication of what has been learned. These specific outcomes are evaluated in the testing process.
• Advancement made in utilizing higher order thinking. Significant portions of the CD exams require going beyond rote memorization and includes structures not seen before the exam or those presented in novel ways. Additionally, frequent clinical applications are taught and tested over and there are sessions that include problem–based learning.
• Enhanced confidence to problem solve when faced with the unusual and to view “new situations” as a challenge rather than something to be afraid of.
• To experience strength in achieving, what will be for many of them, a challenge, by collaboration with each other. Even though CD students are usually already excellent students, when placed in a challenging but supportive venue with each other, they will often make large leaps in their academic skills and mindset because of the synergism of the environment. Additionally, CD team members often become very close and have long lasting friendships.
• For opportunity that allows their further self-awareness and maturation as educators and the honing of their communication skills. This is achieved by providing the infrastructure and support for them to teach the anatomy they have learned and been tested over, 6-8 times in their regular lab times.

CD team members do all of this extra work for no extra credit or grade compensation. That they do this work for the experience itself, as well as the fact that we often have 50 or more (and have had up to 73) applicants from the Human Body (Biol 340) students enrolled in a particular semester, is confirmation that this experience is valuable. We also have had a large amount of feedback from students in professional school who credit this experience to the relative ease they have had performing in gross anatomy classes and for their preparedness for the height of new hurdles in professional or graduate school.

Applications are available on KSOL the first day of lecture class and are due later in the first week . 30-35 students will be selected from the applicant pool for one of the three CD teams which meet TU 3:30-5:20, 5:30-7:20 or 7:30-9:20 p.m.

Dana K. Townsend, Ph.D.
Kansas State University
1-785-532-6616, danat@ksu.edu