Angela M. Allevi, MD, Lindsey Lane, MD, Thomas Jefferson University/A.I. duPont Hospital, Philadelphia, PA
BACKGROUND: Newer active learning methods like problem-based learning, team-based learning, and case-based learning are being used to augment traditional teaching methods. Despite widespread adoption of these new methods we found no qualitative studies that examined what actually happens during these educational processes. Eight years ago we replaced lectures with a module method of learning in our pediatric clerkship. Modules consist of case vignettes that students research and prepare for group discussion facilitated by a faculty member. Our goal was to understand the student experience and identify the important factors/features of the module method. METHODS: We conducted an ethnographic study over one year. Fifty students participated. We used multiple data sources: participant observation, written reflections, semi-structured interviews and focus groups. After initial data review a working coding schema was devised, tested, and verified. Data was coded and analyzed for themes. RESULTS: The main themes that emerged were: Constructivist learning, Effective and Real-life learning, Time spent on learning, Exam preparation and Faculty role. Students spoke and wrote about and we observed construction of knowledge. Although time consuming, students placed value on modules and high value on interactions with faculty who contributed to real-life learning. Students felt the modules prepared them for their pediatric subject examination more at the beginning of the year, and placed less value on real-life learning at the end of the academic year. CONCLUSION: Students see modules as a dynamic, interactive process that is educational and worthwhile. Learning is built or constructed in modules, with faculty interactions the most valuable part. Students learn concepts, clinical thinking and management, and an understanding of what is important in the clinical care of patients. There is some shift in attitude towards modules as third year progresses with some students more focused on what they need to know to do well on the examination rather than real-life learning.