BACKGROUND: Information learned over a longer period of time has been shown to result in better long-term knowledge retention than information learned over a shorter period of time. In order to address multiple curricular goals, the timing and spacing of anatomy content within the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at our institution recently changed from a very spaced to a very compressed format. The purpose of the present study was to assess differences in anatomy knowledge retention that might have been impacted by this change. The research hypothesis was that students receiving spaced instruction would have significantly better anatomy knowledge retention than students receiving massed instruction.
METHODS: Participants consisted of two cohorts of DPT students that both received 45 contact hours of anatomy lecture and 90 contact hours of anatomy lab. The LONG cohort experienced anatomy through a lecture and lab taught over a 30-week, 2 semester period as separate courses. In contrast, the SHORT cohort took their anatomy lecture and lab concurrently over one 10-week semester. A pre-test was administered on the first day of their anatomy lecture course, and a post-test was administered to each cohort 18 months after completion of their last anatomy exam.
RESULTS: After controlling for age-related differences in the two groups, no significant differences in mean pre-test, post-test, or percentage improvement were found between cohorts (p = 0.516; 0.203; and 0.152, respectively).
CONCLUSION: These findings refute the hypothesis and show that both spaced and massed instruction in these cohorts resulted in the same level of long-term anatomy knowledge retention.
Amabile, Amy H.; Nixon-Cave, Kim; Georgetti, Larry J.; and Sims, Ashley C., "Front-loading of anatomy content has no effect on long-term anatomy knowledge retention among physical therapy students: a prospective cohort study." (2021). Department of Physical Therapy Faculty Papers. Paper 28.
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