Effects of Interest-Based Clinical Learning and Personalized Assessments in a High School Alliance Anatomy Course

Ethan Snow, Halle Halbkat, Megan Perry, Jaynie Bird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Personal interest is an incredibly powerful motivator. For many individuals, personal interest inspires the decision to pursue a specific career path despite the often lengthy and demanding commitment that inevitably follows. In this regard, personal interest is influential in generating direction, motivation, efficiency in efforts, and general fulfillment. While research on motivations and strategies for learning is extensive, very few studies have empirically examined the effect of allowing students to choose specific content to learn based on their personal interests. High school students may especially benefit from this method of learning as they are early in their educational experiences (if considering post-secondary education), concerned with exploring their personal interests and career options, and actively developing translational independent learning skills. The objective of this study is to examine the effects of interest-based clinical learning and personalized assessments in a high school alliance anatomy course. METHODS: Seven interest-based learning assignments were administered to the High School Alliance anatomy students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Each assignment listed five clinical conditions of a particular anatomical system that were not explicitly taught within the regular curriculum. Students were instructed to independently research the relevant basic anatomy for the one condition they found most interesting and record what they learned. During subsequent routine uniform examinations (four total throughout the course), each student was administered a personalized assessment containing questions pertaining to the condition they chose to research and the basic anatomy that applied. A rubric was created to assess the completeness, accuracy, depth of knowledge, and conceptual synthesis of each student's interest-based learning efforts recorded in their assignment submissions. RESULTS: Data analyses are currently underway but not yet complete. The following will be presented and discussed: 1) a comparison between interest-based learning assignment scores, personalized assessment performances, and uniform examination performances; 2) a comparison between interest-based content choices and related content question performances on the uniform examinations; 3) the ability of students to apply anatomical knowledge to questions testing clinical conditions that were not chosen for interest-based learning; and 4) a comparison between socioeconomic status, personalized assessment performances, and uniform examination performances. CONCLUSIONS & SIGNIFICANCE: This study demonstrates how effective interest-based learning and personalized assessments can be to students in a high school alliance anatomy course. Harnessing personal interest to motivate students to learn course content could significantly impact their development of translational learning skills and improve their academic performances. This study may help other educators implement similar interest-based strategies in their courses to influence student motivations for learning and indirectly teach students independent learning skills.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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