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Teaching and assessment in otolaryngology and neurology: does the timing of clinical courses matter?

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Little is known about the effectiveness of clinical courses as a learning environment. To accurately assess performance in these courses, equal conditions for all candidates are required. We investigated the influence of the proximity of the course to the students test taking, the students’ learning styles, and their self-motivation for learning in relation to performance success. One hundred and eleven students were randomized into eight groups, each attending a 2 week course in otolaryngology with a high proportion of patient-related teaching, and a 2 week long course in neurology with a low level of patient-related teaching. All students took multiple-choice end-of-term exams to assess their knowledge in both subjects. There was a different time interval between the course participation and the test taking for each of the groups. Performance success was correlated with the different groups, as well as with the type of learning style (LIST questionnaire) and with motivation for learning (study interest questionnaire). Explorative rank variance analysis showed a significant correlation between students’ performance on the written exam and the time interval between completion of the neurology course and test-taking, with the shortest interval corresponding to highest scores (P = 0.002). There was no such effect on the success rate in otolaryngology (P = 0.28). Study motivation was not the major component for performance success, but a strong correlation between the use of strategic and deep learning styles and success in the exam was observed (R = 0.62; P < 0.001). The duration of time between a clinical course with little practical teaching and the students’ taking of the exam plays a significant role on performance success; this effect does not occur in a course with a high proportion of practical patient-related teaching. More studies on clinical courses are needed to establish how students can be given adequate opportunities to develop necessary skills for patient care and for objective success on assessment. With such further information, the effectiveness of clinical courses as a learning experience might be enhanced.

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The authors wish to thank Ulrich Stefenelli, Institute of Statistics, Wuerzburg, Germany, for statistical support and critical review of data collection.

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Correspondence to A. A. Dünne.

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Dünne, A.A., Zapf, S., Hamer, H.M. et al. Teaching and assessment in otolaryngology and neurology: does the timing of clinical courses matter?. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 263, 1023–1030 (2006).

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