Teaching anatomy for Fine Art students during lockdown

  • Group size: Small
  • Teaching type: Undergraduate 
  • Division: Humanities
  • Subject: Fine art
  • Tools: Microsoft Teams, video


Tutors at the Ruskin School of Art used the experience of lockdown – and the cancellation of the Prelims exam – to reassess how they teach anatomy to Fine Art undergraduate students. They explored new modes of teaching involving a 'virtual space' as a framework for teaching human (and plant) anatomy. Daily and weekly activities were arranged, including "The Bench" a virtual space for students to meet, chat, tell stories and present objects of interest. 


The course is studio-based, teaching information and ideas about the body. Everything is explored through ‘making’, that is, using materials and developing ideas. Students usually spend two terms in the drawing studio, making large drawings and sculptures. The anatomy tutor has an osteology collection and teaches anatomical principles through demonstration. 

Due to the lockdown, the Prelims examination was cancelled, meaning that the revision term was irrelevant. Tutors used the opportunity to experiment with different approaches to teaching that took account of the limitations of lockdown: students couldn’t be in a room with the tutors, each other or their artworks. Everything was reduced in size and scale to a two-dimensional screen. Using Microsoft Teams, the tutors invented a new virtual space where students and staff could meet, entitled ‘house and garden’. One of the tutors, who was working at home in a country setting, arranged regular sessions to teach human and plant anatomy through demonstration. Teaching sessions were supplemented by daily and weekly activities to engage the students, including interaction and chatting around “The (virtual) Bench”. 


Lee Triming (Director of Undergraduate Studies) commented: 'It's the social togetherness that is something that's really needed … the course has opened up and become richer and more experimental, I think, than it was before'. Students have engaged well with the activities that were developed and are now running their own workshops that have helped to build relationships with students in other years. The lockdown encouraged the tutors to co-teach, and they hope to continue this approach in the future. 


The return to on-site working in the physical studio will present some challenges, primarily because of space restrictions.  


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Watch the full video interview with Lee and Sarah.


  • Contributed by: Lee Triming and Sarah Simblet (Ruskin School of Art)


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