Anatomy instructional methods research and the persistent debate regarding dissection have been criticised as being overly emotive and lacking the support of empirical evidence in both numbers and quality (Bergman, Van Der Vleuten, & Scherpbier, 2011; Winkelmann, 2007).
This doctoral thesis applies conversation analysis (CA), a qualitative research method, to reveal the extent to which social-interaction profoundly shapes laboratory teaching and learning. The aim is to describe the defining features of the radiography anatomy laboratory community of practice, a term originally coined by Lave and Wenger (Hellermann, 2008), in order to understand how members (i.e. demonstrators and students) enact and renew their participant roles through interaction. This applied-CA investigation examines how previously identified social interaction principles that guide everday conversations are altered and adapted in an institutional setting such as the anatomy teaching-learning laboratory.
In particular, this thesis builds upon the works of Benwell and Stokoe (2002, 2005), who in the context of university education in the United Kingdom (UK), have investigated how university tutors and students display and negotiate teaching-learning agenda and institutional membership roles, identities, and relationships during the tutorial openings. Similarly, the present investigation examines the social identities and relationships that are made relevant, embodied, and negotiated by the participants in the anatomy laboratory context. To study this, the CA method was applied to six video records of anatomy laboratory sessions. The recordings were made at pre-selected time points throughout the first-year radiography program at an Australian university. The CA analyses are grounded in previous investigations that conceptualise interaction as complex multi-layered social and cultural actions, which the participants co-construct and make sense of by drawing upon and making relevant a variety of interactional resources such as body language, sentence structure, tone, membership, affiliation and the local interaction contexts (Drew, 2012a; C. Goodwin, 2013; Mondada, 2007; Streeck, 2009).
This investigation demonstrates that the seemingly ‘messy’ teaching-learning processes that often characterise laboratory classes can be systematically analysed and understood. Analyses show that participants collaboratively organise interactions by orienting to a set of implicit social and cultural principles that lead to emergent regular structures and patterns of interaction. Furthermore, data suggests that participants develop evolving cultural practices that are indicative of the formation of a community of practice. By making these practices visible, CA provides a means for anatomy educators to study, reflect upon, and reconceptualise their laboratory teaching practices. Additionally, guidelines may be recommended to educators to improve the quality of their pedagogical interaction. Most importantly, instructional approaches may be more accurately described before jumping to conclusions and interventions without a thorough understanding.