Universal design for learning and anatomy healthcare education

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Dempsey, Audrey M. K.
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University College Cork
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Inclusive learning environments and educational experiences for all individuals have been identified as priorities in recent educational policies in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and Northern Ireland (NI). Driven by these policy mandates, curricula across all disciplines, including anatomy education, are undergoing reform to ensure inclusive learning experiences are afforded to all individuals. Anatomy is a critical component of healthcare curricula. Robust knowledge of anatomy ensures the safe and effective practice of healthcare professionals. Motivation and engagement have been found to play an integral role in successful student learning. However, there are reports of a lack of both motivation and engagement among some healthcare students studying anatomy. Hence there is need to incorporate a specific pedagogical framework in anatomy curricula to enhance motivation and engagement among healthcare students and in turn promote an inclusive learning experience. The aim of this thesis was to determine whether Universal Design for Learning (UDL) would be an appropriate pedagogical framework in the design and delivery of anatomy curricula to enhance healthcare students’ motivation and engagement. Firstly, a scoping review, which is a method of mapping emerging literature, was carried out which established that UDL has not been utilised in anatomy curricula of third level healthcare programmes, specifically medicine, dentistry, occupational therapy or speech and language therapy (Chapter Two). While there are published studies incorporating teaching strategies which align with UDL, and have in turn reported benefits to student learning, none of these studies specifically mention the UDL framework. Motivation levels of first year undergraduate healthcare students in University College Cork (UCC) at the start and end of their anatomy modules were established (Chapter 3) using the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), and a change in motivation over the duration of the module was identified. First year healthcare students in UCC and anatomy educators based in the ROI and United Kingdom (UK) were surveyed (Chapter Four and Chapter Five, respectively). The first year healthcare students were informed about UDL as they neared the end of an anatomy module. After informed consent was obtained a paper questionnaire was distributed to potential participants. An online questionnaire was distributed to anatomy educators using the online platform Microsoft Forms and was available for 12 weeks. Both studies highlighted that very few anatomy students or educators were aware of UDL. However, the majority of the participants in both studies acknowledged the potential of the UDL framework to enhance the design and delivery of anatomy curricula. The results of this thesis show that the incorporation of UDL into the design and delivery of third level anatomy curricula could potentially enhance student motivation, engagement and their overall educational experience. More specifically, the results from the scoping review (Chapter Two) indicated that teaching methods which align with UDL enhance anatomy students’ academic performance, motivation and confidence. The results described in Chapter Three highlight the range in motivation levels among anatomy students enrolled in various healthcare programmes both at the start of their respective anatomy modules and at the end. The majority of first year anatomy healthcare students thought that UDL benefits student learning (99%, n=186) and that the implementation of UDL increases student engagement (97%, n=183) (Chapter Four). Finally, the results described in Chapter Five revealed that anatomy educators have a mixed opinion of UDL as some participants were concerned about the time commitment required to implement UDL in anatomy curricula design. Nevertheless, the potential benefit of the utilisation of ULD was acknowledged by the majority of the participants. In summary, students vary in their levels of motivation to study anatomy and the manner in which they prefer to engage with learning material, activities and assessments. The utilisation of the UDL pedagogical framework in anatomy curricula can accommodate learner variability and in turn afford all students the opportunity to reach their individual potential while enhancing and promoting an inclusive third level educational experience.
Universal design for learning , Anatomy education , Curriculum design , Inclusive education
Dempsey, A. M. K. 2022. Universal design for learning and anatomy healthcare education. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.