Medical Student Perceptions of the Learning Environment at the End of the First Year: A 28-Medical School Collaborative

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Abstract

Purpose

Accreditation and professional organizations have recognized the importance of measuring medical students’ perceptions of the learning environment, which influences well-being and professional competency development, to optimize professional development. This study was conducted to explore interactions between students’ perceptions of the medical school learning environment, student demographic variables, and students’ professional attributes of empathy, coping, tolerance of ambiguity, and patient-centeredness to provide ideas for improving the learning environment.

Method

Twenty-eight medical schools at 38 campuses recruited 4,664 entering medical students to participate in the two-cohort longitudinal study (2010–2014 or 2011–2015). The authors employed chi-square tests and analysis of variance to examine the relationship between Medical School Learning Environment Survey (MSLES) scores and student characteristics. The authors used mixed-effects models with random school and campus effects to test the overall variances accounted for in MSLES scores at the end of the first year of medical school.

Results

Student attributes and demographic characteristics differed significantly across schools but accounted for only 2.2% of the total variance in MSLES scores. Medical school campus explained 15.6% of the variance in MSLES scores.

Conclusions

At year’s end, students’ perceptions toward the learning environment, as reported on the MSLES, differed significantly according to the medical school campus where they trained. Further studies are needed to identify specific factors, such as grading policies, administrative support, and existence of learning communities, which may influence perceptions of the learning environment at various schools. Identifying such variables would assist schools in developing a positive learning environment.

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