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A plastic toy torso sits on a pink background with smaller plastic organs and bones surrounding it.

ANAT 391 Introduction to Cadaveric Dissection

 Winter 2023 (Blended)
 Year 3 Optional Course
 9-10 hours/week
 3 units
On-Campus Course

Dr. Michael Adams, Olivia Giovannetti, Diane Tomalty

ANAT 391 Introduction to Cadaveric Dissection is a course on human macro and microdissection that uses a series of carefully curated online modules, group learning activities, assignments, and inquiry-based learning to enable students to explore the process of human dissection and discover the value of teaching anatomy using dissected human specimens. Through active and collaborative learning, students will need to apply knowledge from previous anatomy courses in addition to practical skills taught via online modules and in-person sessions, to dissect an assigned human cadaveric specimen. The function of dissection is to reveal all possible structures and associated anatomical landmarks of a named dissection goal. Students will need to think critically to complete their dissections and present their findings to their peers. A focus will be on contextualizing the dissected work in the broader field of anatomical education.


Note: Please contact Olivia Giovannetti (o.giovannetti@queensu.ca) and Diane Tomalty (d.tomalty@queensu.ca) with any questions about this course.

Minimum 3rd year (level 3) standing, minimum standing of B+ in one of [(ANAT 100/3.0; ANAT 101/3.0; AND ANAT 380/3.0); (ANAT 215/3.0 and ANAT 216/3.0); (ANAT 315/3.0 and ANAT 316/3.0)].

Blended format with materials, communication, and assignment submissions all via the learning management system as well as in-person lab sessions for practical work and presentations.

With successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Dissect and display gross and microscopic anatomical features on a human cadaveric specimen using conventional and novel dissection techniques, producing a high-quality museum worthy specimen.
  2. Critically develop and appraise questions and concepts related to gaps in contemporary anatomical pedagogy to create a feasible research question 
  3. Clearly communicate the process of dissection and major findings from completed student work to contextualize dissection as a tool for teaching anatomy and in a research setting. 

The course learning outcomes and assessments that correspond with the program competencies are indicated below:

  1. Communicator
  2. Advocate
  3. Leader
  4. Scholar
  5. Professional
  6. Collaborator
  7. Content Expert

Assessment 1 - Quizzes (10%)

Students will complete five low stakes quizzes, involving multiple-choice as well as identification questions, designed to facilitate formative learning as well as to confirm the knowledge and integration of the module and practical content. The ten quizzes will each be worth 2% and will align with the bi-weekly module material.

Assessment 2 – Dissection Plan (15%)

Students will design a dissection plan that clearly outlines their approach to macro-dissection of their human cadaveric specimen. Students will submit the written plan including justifications of major decisions, what tools they will use, what the dissection should demonstrate, as well as a division of responsibility within their groups. The dissection plan is an individual assignment, and student groups will share their dissection plans with each other to collaborate and ultimately determine a final approach. Students will also provide detailed feedback on a peer’s dissection plan from another group which is clearly written and specifies changes that could improve the plan. The written submission will be worth 10% and the peer feedback will be worth 5%.

Assessment 3 Essay (25%)

This is a written assignment that requires students to critically evaluate contemporary literature regarding practices of anatomical pedagogy, identifying gaps which could be subsequently investigated. Students will provide concise findings about the background researched from peer-reviewed literature and devise a research question aimed at addressing the identified gap in knowledge. Students will be required to provide feedback on the research question of a peer, critiquing its feasibility as well as identifying possible limitations that could be faced. The written submission will be worth 20% and the peer feedback will be worth 5%.

Assessment 4 – Oral Presentation (20%)

Students will prepare and deliver a presentation on a predetermined topic related to dissection techniques, research, or critical findings. Students will advocate for the use of dissection to emphasize the effectiveness of their tool or topic, effectively communicating to an educated and informed audience. The students will be expected to support their oral presentation using audio/visual materials and effectively engage the audience with high-level learning interactions.

Assessment 5 – Dissection Defense (30%)

Students will complete an in-person defense of their dissected specimen whereby they will describe the anatomy and justify why their chosen dissection effectively demonstrates anatomical structure. The defense will also include a question and answer period involving the course instructors, and the students will each have the opportunity to apply their acquired knowledge in curating thoughtful oral responses during the defense. Students will present their dissections in groups but will be graded individually.

Students can expect to spend 7-9 hours a week in practical work, study, and online activity for ANAT 391 (total time commitment 120 hours to complete the course).


ANAT 391 learning modules provided on the course website.


In anatomy it is important to look at structures in various orientations to gain an appreciation and understanding of anatomical relationships within a region. Suggested resources are provided that can be used to support your learning. Material from these sources will not be directly tested. Some of these resources are available online or for check-out at the Queen’s University Library.

You are not required to purchase a textbook for this course.