Two Novel Approaches for the Implementation and Assessment of Self-Directed Learning in the Pre-Clinical Medical School Curriculum

Author(s): Bindu Menon, Coral D. Matus, Jeremy J. Laukka

Introduction: Self-directed learning (SDL) is a process in which learners diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, and identify appropriate resources to close the knowledge gap. The objective of this study was to assess student satisfaction as well as content mastery after implementing two novel models of SDL into our pre-clinical curriculum.

Methods: In the first model, instructors provided a detailed clinical vignette (topic: anticoagulants) to the students, who had to identify a learning objective, and appropriate resources to address that and submit their findings. In the second model, the faculty provided learning objectives for a chosen topic (COVID-19). The students, divided into small groups, had to choose an objective, find an original research paper that addresses it, and then present the findings. The faculty provided narrative feedback guided by a rubric in both instances. The authors conducted a cross-sectional survey of the students who participated in the program (n=158/175; 90%). Additionally, we analyzed students’ content mastery on COVID-19 in the internal assessments, using a cognitively diagnostic assessment called the Deterministic Input, Noisy “And” Gate (DINA) model.

Results and Conclusions: Students reacted positively in the survey with 69% percent of the respondents reporting that SDL reinforced their learning and 66% agreeing that it helped their development as lifelong learners. The success of the method is evident from the DINA model analysis which showed that 91% of the students attained the skills necessary to answer questions on “COVID-19”. The two innovative approaches described here can be easily adapted by other institutions.

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