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Extra bodies in anatomy labs a win-win

Marcus Butler

28 November 2017: Second, third and fourth year anatomy and physiology students at the University of Canberra are taking their learning to new heights by acting as mentors to students in lower years.

Anatomy and physiology is one of the most popular courses at the University and students with at least a year of study under their belt are assisting staff in the laboratories, which see up to 600 students pass through annually.

Assistant Professor of Sport and Exercise Science and course convenor Dr Disa Smee said the mentoring program, which has been running for the last two years, targeted high-performing students and provided them with a chance to take on more responsibility during their degree.

“We invite second, third and fourth year students to work with those in the year below,” Dr Smee said.

“These students provide another set of eyes and are on hand to share their knowledge and expertise with students not as far along as them.

Dr Smee said the students work across dry laboratories where anatomy models and replicas are part of the teaching as well as wet laboratories where students undertake hands-on work with physical specimens.

“For the teaching staff, it means we have an extra person who can answer basic questions and help us manage larger classes,” she said.

“For the mentor themselves, it is an opportunity to recall past learning and it really helps cement it into their minds.”

Up to three mentors work with each class and those participating are selected based on their academic performance.

Senior lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology, Dr Julie Cooke said there are about 10 mentors per anatomy and physiology based unit per year.

“We’ve had about 40 of these stand-out students getting themselves back into the lab, building their capacity and picking up extra skills along the way,” Dr Cooke said.

“Most of our graduates will go into clinical work and being able to communicate these health and anatomy and physiology related concepts with people who aren’t as familiar with the topic will be an everyday task. Getting them skilled up in assisting the more junior students is an important experience.

Dr Cooke said the program could encourage students to consider a career as an academic.

“It’s like the saying goes, you remember a little of what you hear, some of what you read, but most of what you teach. This is a great way for our students to also get a taste for an academic career, perhaps after a stint as a mentor they’d consider taking on a teaching role in years to come.”