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Head to head: The role of academic competition in undergraduate anatomical education
Anatomical Sciences Education (2014)
  • Tim Wilson, Western University
  • Sonya E. Van Nuland
  • Victoria A. Roach
  • Daniel J. Belliveau
Competition is a key element in many educational games and is often adopted by educators in an effort to motivate and excite their students. Yet, the use of academic competition in educational institutions remains the subject of much debate. Opponents argue that academic competition causes an increase in student anxiety and divides their attention. However, if the contexts of academic competition are defined, could the inclusion of a game-like competition in a university course be a viable and beneficial method of engaging students? Students (n = 67) were recruited from an undergraduate human anatomy course at Western University. Using a crossover design, students were exposed to a competitive tournament either at the time of their first term test or second term test. The anatomical knowledge of participating students was assessed prior to the start of the study using a baseline anatomy test. Following treatment with an online competitive anatomy tournament, student's term test grades and final course grades were analyzed. Both the second term test scores (F(2,64) = 3.743, P = 0.029) and overall course grades (F(2,64) = 3.356, P = 0.041) were found to be significantly different (P < 0.05) for individuals in the competitive group when compared to their non-competing peers. As suggested by the literature where organized competition in the classroom correlates to improved academic performance, this study uncovered significant results pertaining to increased academic performance resulting from participating in tournament-based competition. In light of these positive results, further exploration of the effects of academic competition on student performance across age brackets and disciplines is warranted. Anat Sci Educ. © 2014 American Association of Anatomists.
  • gross anatomy education,
  • undergraduate medical education,
  • games in the classroom,
  • education games,
  • gamification,
  • competition-based learning,
  • student engagement
Publication Date
October 15, 2014
Citation Information
Tim Wilson, Sonya E. Van Nuland, Victoria A. Roach and Daniel J. Belliveau. "Head to head: The role of academic competition in undergraduate anatomical education" Anatomical Sciences Education (2014)
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