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Pressures and interventions imposed on medical school teachers regarding students' examination grades. Babic A et al. Medical Education 2013;47:820-823.
Reviewed by Rebecca Tenney-Soeiro

What was the study question? Are teachers exposed to pressures and interventions by individuals who wish to obtain a pass or a better grade on an examination for a student?

How was the study done?
Tenured teachers at the University of Split School of Medicine in Croatia were given anonymous self-report questionnaires assessing demographics, prevalence and types of pressures or interventions experienced the person who had tried to intervene, and possible solutions for preventing such pressures.

What were the results?
Ninety-one of 124 teachers agreed to participate in the study. Participants had worked as medical school teachers for a mean of 9.4 + - 8.1 years. 46% of teachers reported having been pressured by students, 34% by students' parents, and 37% by work colleagues. The most common types of pressures or interventions included persistent pleading, “friendly” requests, crying, or negotiations. Few were exposed to threats, yelling or attempted bribery, and there were no reports of physical violence. Participants suggested the following might prevent future occurrences: warnings be given at the beginning of the course or the exam, regulations be created to "outlaw" the imposition of pressures to change marks, consequences be defined, and a clear reporting structure to the vice dean for education be outlined.

What are the implications of these findings?
As this study was done at only one medical school the results are limited in its generalizability, however we must change the culture in our medical schools. As teachers we should set clear expectations and provide meaningful experiences promoting professional values to our students. However, our work colleagues and organizational leaders should be held to the same professionalism standards we expect of our students.

Editor's note: Are these results generalizable to US and Canadian medical schools? Another potential research project for COMSEP! - (SLB).

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