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Students like lectures better if they attend them (rather than just listen on-line)
The impact of lecture attendance and other variables on how medical students evaluate faculty in a preclinical program. Martin SI et al. Academic Medicine 2013;88(7):972-977.
Reviewed by Chris White


What was the study question?
Do students who attend lectures evaluate faculty differently compared with those who don't?

How was the study done?
A retrospective review of all faculty evaluations (Likert scale of 1 = poor performance to 5 = extraordinary performance) completed by 1st and 2nd year medical students during a single academic year was conducted at Ohio State University College of Medcine. Faculty evaluations were mandatory. Approximately 50 pre-assigned students evaluated each faculty member. Students self-reported whether or not they attended as part of their evaluation.

What were the results?
220 lecturers were evaluated. 74% of students attended the lectures, 26% viewed them online. Mean lecturer ratings from students attending the lectures were 3.85 compared with 3.80 by non-attenders (P≤.05). 1st year students rated faculty higher than 2nd year students. Clinical faculty were rated higher than basic scientists. Honors (top 10%) students rated faculty higher than satisfactory students.

What are the implications of these findings?

Student evaluations are the major yardstick for evaluating the quality of faculty teaching at most medical schools. If the "n" is large enough and the evaluation form well designed, the students usually get it right. Although students attending lectures rated faculty slightly higher than those not attending, the actual difference was pretty small, which is reassuring. Interestingly, one faculty member (basic scientist) was so outstanding that he skewed the analysis and had to be removed. He does not use PowerPoint and his handouts only show the major topics with lots of blank space for the students to take notes. What a concept!

Editor's Note: Only briefly mentioned at the end of the study is the fact that, as the amount of content that needs to be covered continues to increase, more and more medical schools are moving away from traditional lectures. Some are being replaced by online lectures but others are replaced by small group methodologies like team-based learning or problem-based learning. I wonder what impact these changes will have on the way that faculty are evaluated (JG).

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