The Big Physio Survey - Example of Education

Keywords

Memory, recall, chunking, Scalene, learning, anatomy

Who or what is my case report based on?

My case study is based on a group of year one Physiotherapy students who were learning about the muscles that have an effect on the cervical spine.

What is the physiotherapy event or episode of care?

Students had commented that they were having difficulty learning the origins and insertions of the muscles of the cervical spine and in particular for muscles such as the Scalene Muscle group that have a complex arrangement of attachments.

What were the aims of the physiotherapy event or episode of care?

To introduce a more manageable way for students to learn and remember the origins and insertions of the muscles of the cervical spine starting with the Scalene muscle group.

What did I do?

Each of the three Scalene muscles has a complex proximal origin attaching to various anterior transverse processes (TP) of the cervical spine and distal insertion to either the first or second rib (R), so lots of cervical spine numbers are involved. Groups of numbers can be hard to learn yet with a technique referred to as “chunking” it is possible to remember quite long strings of numbers relatively quickly. During an anatomy seminar, and without saying why or introducing the slide in any way I added a ppt slide with just 2 digits “36” the following two slides were routine anatomy slides before a slide with “36-17” appeared on the screen, again with no explanation which intrigued the students and awakened an interest with students wondering “where is he going with this”. The final number slide was 36-17-46-112 which by now all students could recite following the verbal trigger of saying “three”. There then followed a picture of the three Scalene muscles showing Scalene anterior attaching to Cervical transverse processes 3-6, Scalene Medius transverse processes 1-7 and Scalene Posterior TP 4-6 with Scalene Anterior attaching to rib 1, Medius to rib 1 and Posterior to rib 2, hence (TP)36-17-46-(R)112.

What was the outcome or effect?

The majority of the students acknowledged that they could instantly translate the chunked number sequence into the Scalene muscle attachments having spent little or no effort in trying to learn and remember what is a complex situation. Several students then came up with other similar number based situations where they could use the same technique to assist in retention of detail for other muscle attachments and nerve root supply. Several months after this session it is still possible to trigger a full description of the attachments of the scalene muscle simply by stopping a student in the corridor and saying the word “three” indicating that this information has entered the long term memory.

Why did I do this?

This exercise introduced a new learning technique which is quick to do and in essence already practiced as everybody has developed an ability to remember number sequences. This application of chunking gives the students a new tool to assist in any situation where numeric based facts need to be assimilated, a situation which is very prevalent in learning anatomy. NB: Having read this, and whether you are a MSK physiotherapist or not, can you now recall the full attachments of the Scalene muscle group….I hope so!