European Spine Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 992–998 | Cite as

Knowledge transfer of spinal manipulation skills by student-teachers: a randomised controlled trial

  • Matthias Knobe
  • Malte Holschen
  • Saskia Catharina Mooij
  • Richard Martin Sellei
  • Ralf Münker
  • Pia Antony
  • Roman Pfeifer
  • Wolf Drescher
  • Hans-Christoph Pape
Original Article



To assess the use of peer-assisted learning (PAL) of complex manipulative motor skills with respect to gender in medical students.


In 2007–2010, 292 students in their 3rd and 4th years of medical school were randomly assigned to two groups [Staff group (SG), PAL group (PG)] led by either staff tutors or student-teachers (ST). The students were taught bimanual practical and diagnostic skills (course education module of eight separate lessons) as well as a general introduction to the theory of spinal manipulative therapy. In addition to qualitative data collection (Likert scale), evaluation was performed using a multiple-choice questionnaire in addition to an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).


Complex motor skills as well as palpatory diagnostic competencies could in fact be better taught through professionals than through ST (manipulative OSCE grades/diagnostic OSCE score; SG vs. PG; male: P = 0.017/P < 0.001, female: P < 0.001/P < 0.001). The registration of theoretical knowledge showed equal results in students taught by staff or ST. In both teaching groups (SG: n = 147, PG: n = 145), no significant differences were observed between male and female students in matters of manipulative skills or theoretical knowledge. Diagnostic competencies were better in females than in males in the staff group (P = 0.041) Overall, students were more satisfied with the environment provided by professional teachers than by ST, though male students regarded the PAL system more suspiciously than their female counterparts.


The peer-assisted learning system does not seem to be generally qualified to transfer such complex spatiotemporal demands as spinal manipulative procedures.


Peer teaching Gender differences Randomised controlled trial Complex motor skills Spinal manipulative therapy 



The authors wish to thank all the students who participated. Without their enthusiasm and willingness, this project would not have been possible.

Conflict of interest

None to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Knobe
    • 1
  • Malte Holschen
    • 1
  • Saskia Catharina Mooij
    • 1
  • Richard Martin Sellei
    • 1
  • Ralf Münker
    • 2
  • Pia Antony
    • 1
  • Roman Pfeifer
    • 1
  • Wolf Drescher
    • 1
  • Hans-Christoph Pape
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Orthopedic and Trauma Surgery, Medical FacultyRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Orthopedic and Trauma SurgeryBethlehem Hospital StolbergStolbergGermany

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