The effectiveness of physical models in teaching anatomy: a meta-analysis of comparative studies

Kaissar Yammine, Claudio Violato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


There are various educational methods used in anatomy teaching. While three dimensional (3D) visualization technologies are gaining ground due to their ever-increasing realism, reports investigating physical models as a low-cost 3D traditional method are still the subject of considerable interest. The aim of this meta-analysis is to quantitatively assess the effectiveness of such models based on comparative studies. Eight studies (7 randomized trials; 1 quasi-experimental) including 16 comparison arms and 820 learners met the inclusion criteria. Primary outcomes were defined as factual, spatial and overall percentage scores. The meta-analytical results are: educational methods using physical models yielded significantly better results when compared to all other educational methods for the overall knowledge outcome (p < 0.001) and for spatial knowledge acquisition (p < 0.001). Significantly better results were also found with regard to the long-retention knowledge outcome (p < 0.01). No significance was found for the factual knowledge acquisition outcome. The evidence in the present systematic review was found to have high internal validity and at least an acceptable strength. In conclusion, physical anatomical models offer a promising tool for teaching gross anatomy in 3D representation due to their easy accessibility and educational effectiveness. Such models could be a practical tool to bring up the learners’ level of gross anatomy knowledge at low cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-895
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Anatomy
  • Education
  • Meta-analysis
  • Physical model


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