Using a clinical computer system to assess student anatomical knowledge and understanding: A pilot

Paul Kane



 Introduction: Although anatomy is baseline knowledge for radiation therapists, students often do not see its clinical relevance. Radiation therapists need to interpret the anatomy visualised on computed tomography (CT) images for planning and treatment verification purposes. The Bachelor of Radiation Therapy at the University of Otago combines anatomy with imaging concepts in a first-year academic paper. Teaching includes using a treatment planning system (TPS), which permits students to make the connection between textbook anatomy and CT images. This project explored the use of a TPS as an assessment tool for anatomy.

Method: The anatomical knowledge of two small cohorts of first- and second-year radiation therapy students was assessed using a treatment planning system. Semi-structured focus groups were conducted with each cohort to capture the students’ experience of the assessment. 

Results: Students performed no worse in this assessment compared with a similar traditional assessment. In addition, the assessment promoted student engagement with the material. Students could demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in a manner reflective of clinical practice. Concerns regarding lack of familiarity in using the planning system and fear of technological failure on the assessment day were identified, as well as a general discomfort with the absence of a “correct answer” for certain scenarios.

Conclusions: This study shows that a TPS can be used to teach and assess anatomical knowledge. Students found the TPS assessment to be more clinically relevant and were able to make connections between topics and clinical experience. Future assessments utilising a TPS should ensure students are familiar with the system prior to those assessments.


assessment; computer systems; anatomy; computerised tomography; evaluation

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