Research

Under the category of “in case you did not know,” the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System has been the focus of a considerable amount of high-quality, peer-reviewed academic research—and has fared quite well.

In fact, the metadata would suggest that the case is closed:


Learning human anatomy through clay construction is a highly effective way to learn.


The studies have been conducted for many years and, of course, we welcome them.


In fact, we welcome anyone with a fresh idea about comparing traditional approaches to teaching human anatomy to teaching anatomy with the learning systems we provide.


And, by the way, we are not isolationists!


In fact, our non-profit Anatomy in Clay Centers in Denver frequently collaborates with the Colorado Center for Learning Anatomy in offering classes that combine clay construction and cadaveric dissection.


The bottom line is we are fans of learning and studying anatomy by any means necessary, as the old saying goes.


But the clay construction approach has been checked—by science itself.


We keep a running list of the research and solid media reporting here. That list includes all the study citations and authors, if you’re interested in tracking down more detail.


How about the study conducted by the Natural and Applied Science Department at LaGuardia Community College in New York City?


That study included 181 students who were randomly distributed into a control group (for cat dissection) and a clay-modeling group.


“The clay‐modeling group was significantly better at identifying human muscles on human models than the cat‐dissection group, and was as good at identifying muscles on their self‐made clay mannequins as the cat‐dissection group was at identifying cat muscle on their specimens,” the study concluded. “This study demonstrated that clay modeling is more effective than cat dissection for learning human muscles at the community college level.”


Similar results were found in a 2003 study at Pennsylvania State University in the Department of Biology. In this study, 120 undergraduates enrolled in a human anatomy course were assigned to cat dissection or clay sculpting.


The students focused on the muscular, digestive, and cardiovascular systems.


“On exams after a cat dissection vs. a human-clay sculpting experience, the students in the human-clay sculpting treatment group scored significantly higher than their classmates in the cat dissection group on both the low- and high-difficulty questions,” the study concluded. “Our data indicate that human-clay sculpting may be a viable alternative to cat dissection in an anatomy course in which the students focus on human anatomy.”


(Our snarky response might be “what other focus would there be?”)


Cats were also the comparative focus in a study in the Science and Health Department at the University of Cincinnati Clermont College. “These results indicate that clay modeling and cat dissection are equally effective in achieving student learning outcomes for certain systems in undergraduate human anatomy. Furthermore, clay modeling appears to be the preferred technique based on students' subjective perceptions of value to their learning experience.”


There’s also a qualitative study. It’s called “The Constructive Approach to Teaching Anatomy through Clay Modeling: A Multi-Tier Educational Value.”


This study included the experiences of former medical students—a Syracuse high school teacher, anatomy faculty from two medical schools, and also a third-grader who participated in daylong workshops using the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System.


A third-grader!


This particular study focused on female perineal muscles. “While the instructors and students (now resident physicians) gained a greater appreciation of the region, a new world of anatomy was exposed to an unsuspecting, but curious, elementary school student,” the study concluded. “Participants with anatomy experience reported much improved familiarity with the pelvis, and in particular the attachments of the obturator internus muscle, even after having dissected the region previously. While the pedagogical question whether to implement (clay modeling) before or after lab dissections arose, the experience revealed (clay modeling) to be a highly valuable tool across multiple educational tiers.”


We know it’s not polite to toot your own horn.


But we really appreciate it when others do it for us.

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