Heather M. Taylor, MD, University of Alabama School of Medicine, Tuscaloosa, AL
In February 2008, the third year pediatric clerkship curriculum at the University of Alabama School of Medicine was revised to provide more structure to students’ independent study. Previously, the students were assigned 22 Computer-assisted Learning in Pediatrics Program (CLIPP) web-based cases at the beginning of the clerkship and allowed to complete them at their own pace. They were also loaned a pediatric textbook and given a CD containing reference articles, but no specific suggestions for reading was made. With the changes, the 22 required CLIPP cases are divided into 7 groups based loosely on themes (i.e. newborn, infectious disease, etc…) and are assigned weekly. Each CLIPP case group is accompanied by a list of suggested readings from the textbook and the reference article CD. In addition, faculty developed supplemental cases for each theme that consist of a case presentation with accompanying questions. Each Friday, students are emailed the assigned CLIPP cases, the supplemental cases, and the suggested readings. They are required to complete the CLIPP cases and send back their answers for the supplemental cases by the following Friday. To evaluate the response to the curriculum change, feedback about the specific changes was solicited from the students in the form of an anonymous survey. In addition, the results of the students’ formal evaluation of the clerkship for the two years after the change were compared to the previous two years. The overwhelming majority of students surveyed felt that the changes were helpful and that they would not have kept up with the reading and CLIPP cases without the structured curriculum. They cited the supplemental cases as the most beneficial change. The students’ evaluation of the organization of the clerkship increased from 6.4 to 8.2 on a 9-point scale and their assessment of the extent to which the clerkship motivated them to study independently increased from 6.5 to 7.9. The overall assessment of the clerkship increased from 6.6 to 8.0. The structured case-based independent study curriculum was well received by the students and has had a significant positive impact on the students’ assessment of the clerkship.