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Acad Med. 2007 May;82(5):486-92.

A faculty development program to train tutors to be discussion leaders rather than facilitators.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.



During 2003, 2004, and 2005, the role of 70 tutors was changed from that of facilitator to discussion leader, in a preclinical PBL learning course, Gastrointestinal Pathophysiology, by use of three key business school teaching strategies: questions, summaries, and schematics. The purpose of this study was to learn what difference this new approach made.


During each of the three study years, 171 (2003), 167 (2004), and 170 (2005) students were given Likert-scale attitudinal questionnaires to rate whether their tutors encouraged student direction of the tutorials and whether the summaries and closure schematics benefited their learning. Students' overall course evaluations and mean USMLE scores were quantitatively analyzed, pre- and postintervention. A variety of statistical tests were used to assess the statistical significance of means at the confidence level of .05.


In the third year of the program, student ratings indicated that their tutors were significantly better at encouraging student direction of the tutorials than in the first year (P < .05). The students reported that the tutorial made a more important contribution to their learning (P < .05), and the course objectives were better stated (P = .038) and better met (P = .007). Overall satisfaction with the course also improved significantly (P = .006). Part I gastrointestinal system mean scores of the USMLE showed a statistically significant increase in 2005 compared with 2001 or 2002.


The tutor as a discussion leader who questions, summarizes, and uses schematics to illustrate concepts had a significant and positive impact on learning in tutorials, achieving course objectives, improving overall course satisfaction, and increasing a standardized national exam's mean score.

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