An Expert Derived Feedforward Histology Module Improves Pattern Recognition Efficiency in Novice Students

Anat Sci Educ. 2019 Nov;12(6):645-654. doi: 10.1002/ase.1854. Epub 2019 Jan 22.


Histology is a visually oriented, foundational anatomical sciences subject in professional health curricula that has seen a dramatic reduction in educational contact hours and an increase in content migration to a digital platform. While the digital migration of histology laboratories has transformed histology education, few studies have shown the impact of this change on visual literacy development, a critical competency in histology. The objective of this study was to assess whether providing a video clip of an expert's gaze while completing leukocyte identification tasks would increase the efficiency and performance of novices completing similar identification tasks. In a randomized study, one group of novices (n = 9) was provided with training materials that included expert eye gaze, while the other group (n = 12) was provided training materials with identical content, but without the expert eye gaze. Eye movement parameters including fixation rate and total scan path distance, and performance measures including time-to-task-completion and accuracy, were collected during an identification task assessment. Compared to the control group, the average fixation duration was 13.2% higher (P < 0.02) and scan path distance was 35.0% shorter in the experimental group (P = 0.14). Analysis of task performance measures revealed no significant difference between the groups. These preliminary results suggest a more efficient search performed by the experimental group, indicating the potential efficacy of training using an expert's gaze to enhance visual literacy development. With further investigation, such feedforward enhanced training methods could be utilized for histology and other visually oriented subjects.

Keywords: digital histology; expert eye movement model; eye gaze; feedforward training; histology education; microscopic anatomy; pattern recognition skills; visual literacy.

MeSH terms

  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Education, Professional / methods*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Health Occupations / education*
  • Histology / education*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Professional Competence / statistics & numerical data
  • Random Allocation
  • Students, Health Occupations / psychology
  • Students, Health Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult