Fostering uncertainty tolerance in anatomy education: Lessons learned from how humanities, arts and social science (HASS) educators develop learners' uncertainty tolerance

Michelle D. Lazarus, Amany Gouda-Vossos, Angela Ziebell, Gabrielle Brand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Uncertainty tolerance, individuals' perceptions/responses to uncertain stimuli, is increasingly recognized as critical to effective healthcare practice. While the Covid-19 pandemic generated collective uncertainty, healthcare-related uncertainty is omnipresent. Correspondingly, there is increasing focus on uncertainty tolerance as a health professional graduate “competency,” and a concomitant interest in identifying pedagogy fostering learners' uncertainty tolerance. Despite these calls, practical guidelines for educators are lacking. There is some initial evidence that anatomy education can foster medical students' uncertainty tolerance (e.g., anatomical variation and dissection novelty), however, there remains a knowledge gap regarding robust curriculum-wide uncertainty tolerance teaching strategies. Drawing upon humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) educators' established uncertainty tolerance pedagogies, this study sought to learn from HASS academics' experiences with, and teaching practices related to, uncertainty pedagogy using a qualitative, exploratory study design. Framework analysis was undertaken using an abductive approach, wherein researchers oscillate between inductive and deductive coding (comparing to the uncertainty tolerance conceptual model). During this analysis, the authors analyzed ~386 min of data from purposively sampled HASS academics' (n = 14) discussions to address the following research questions: (1) What teaching practices do HASS academics' perceive as impacting learners' uncertainty tolerance, and (2) How do HASS academics execute these teaching practices? The results extend current understanding of the moderating effects of education on uncertainty tolerance and supports prior findings that the anatomy learning environment is ripe for supporting learner uncertainty tolerance development. This study adds to growing literature on the powerful moderating effect education has on uncertainty tolerance and proposes translation of HASS uncertainty tolerance teaching practices to enhance anatomy education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-147
Number of pages20
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • ambiguity tolerance
  • Covid-19
  • gross anatomy education
  • medical education
  • pedagogy
  • qualitative research
  • teaching practices
  • uncertainty tolerance
  • undergraduate education

Cite this