Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type



Educational Studies

Director of Thesis

Melissa Duffy, Ph.D.

Second Reader

Andrew Graciano, Ph.D.


As an integral component of healthcare, a comprehensive understanding of anatomy is necessary for accurate clinical diagnoses and medical procedures. Beginning in undergraduate classrooms (premedical), there is a need to explore new ways of teaching and learning anatomy to train healthcare professionals. Traditional methods of attending a lecture and reading a textbook may not be the most effective method to learn about anatomical structures—or to engage learners. However, recent studies have reported promising results in the use of arts-based approaches to enhance anatomy learning. Of these, clay sculpting can provide an opportunity for students to participate in an active and engaging learning experience. Thus, after a thorough literature review of educational approaches in anatomy and discussion of relevant learning theories, this thesis presents an educational protocol on a tactile-learning activity—sculpting the human heart out of clay—to be considered for integration into an anatomy curriculum to enhance attention, positive emotions, and retention of information. To align with several pedagogical principles, a multimedia slideshow, an instructor-led clay sculpting tutorial video, and an instructional guide manual were developed. After completion of a 20-question pre-activity quiz, a 20-minute video tutorial features an instructor illustrating each basic sculpting technique, as well as the key structures of the heart that learners needed to be model the heart. The activity is designed to take approximately 40-60 minutes to complete, although learners may choose to spend additional time improving the quality of their model or technique. The educational protocol and curriculum created in this project provides an example of integrating arts-based methods into medical education and explores the potential benefits of incorporating a tactile activity as a part of the multimodal and hands-on approach to aid pre-medical students' understanding of anatomy.

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