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Med Educ. 2011 Sep;45(9):878-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04015.x.

Clinical skills-related learning goals of senior medical students after performance feedback.

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1
Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California-San Francisco, 4150 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA. Anna.Chang2@va.gov

Abstract

CONTEXT:

Lifelong learning is essential for doctors to maintain competence in clinical skills. With performance feedback, learners should be able to formulate specific and achievable learning goals in areas of need.

OBJECTIVES:

We aimed to determine: (i) the type and specificity of medical student learning goals after a required clinical performance examination; (ii) differences in goal setting among low, average and high performers, and (iii) whether low performers articulate learning goals that are concordant with their learning needs.

METHODS:

We conducted a single-site, multi-year, descriptive comparison study. Senior medical students were given performance benchmarks, individual feedback and guidelines on learning goals; each student was subsequently instructed to write two clinical skills learning goals. Investigators coded the learning goals for specificity, categorised the goals, and performed statistical analyses to determine their concordance with student performance level (low, average or high) in data gathering (history taking and physical examination) or communication skills.

RESULTS:

All 208 students each wrote two learning goals and most (n=200, 96%) wrote two specific learning goals. Nearly two-thirds of low performers in data gathering wrote at least one learning goal that referred to history taking or physical examination; one-third wrote learning goals pertaining to the organisation of the encounter. High performers in data gathering wrote significantly more patient education goals and significantly fewer history-taking goals than average or low performers. Only 50% of low performers in communication wrote learning goals related to communication skills. Low performers in communication were significantly more likely than average or high performers to identify learning goals related to improving performance in future examinations.

CONCLUSIONS:

The provision of performance benchmarking, individual feedback and brief written guidelines helped most senior medical students in our study to write specific clinical skills learning goals. Many low-performing students did not write learning goals concordant with their areas of weakness. Future work might focus on enhancing low performers' continued learning in areas of performance deficits.

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