Neurology clerkship goals and their effect on learning and satisfaction

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Abstract

Objective:

To define medical student goals in the neurology clerkship and explore the association between goal setting and student performance, clerkship satisfaction, self-directed learning (SDL), and interest in neurology.

Methods:

A 4-year prospective study of consecutive second- to fourth-year medical students rotating through a required 4-week neurology clerkship was conducted. A goal-generating cohort (first 2 years) was enrolled to describe the breadth of student-derived goals. A goal-evaluating cohort (second 2 years) was used to evaluate the frequency of goal achievement and assess associations with performance (e.g., National Board of Medical Examiners [NBME], examination), satisfaction, and SDL behaviors (both based on 5-point Likert scale).

Results:

Of 440 evaluable students, 201 were goal-generating and 239 goal-evaluating. The top 3 goals were (1) improvement in neurologic examination, (2) understanding neurologic disease, and (3) deriving a differential diagnosis. More than 90% (n = 216/239) of students reported achieving goals. Achievers reported significantly higher clerkship satisfaction (4.2 ± 0.8 vs 2.8 ± 1.0, p < 0.0001), greater interest in neurology (71% vs 35%, p = 0.001), and higher observed tendency toward SDL (4.5 ± 0.5 vs 4.1 ± 0.8, p < 0.0001). After adjusting for age and training, NBME scores were 1.7 points higher in achievers (95% confidence interval 0.1–3.2, p = 0.04).

Conclusion:

Students consistently generated similar goals for a required neurology clerkship. Goal achievers had better adjusted standardized test scores, higher satisfaction, and greater tendency toward SDL. This student-generated, goal-setting program may be particularly appealing to clinicians, educators, and researchers seeking resource-lean mechanisms to improve student experience and performance in the clinical clerkships.

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