Purpose: A number of U.S. medical schools started offering formal students-as-teachers (SAT) training programs to assist medical students in their roles as future teachers. The authors report results of a national survey of such programs in the United States.
Method: In 2008, a 23-item survey was sent to 130 MD-granting U.S. schools. Responses to selective choice questions were quantitatively analyzed. Open-ended questions about benefits and barriers to SAT programs were given qualitative analyses.
Results: Ninety-nine U.S. schools responded. All used their medical students as teachers, but only 44% offered a formal SAT program. Most (95%) offered formal programs in the senior year. Common teaching strategies included small-group work, lectures, role-playing, and direct observation. Common learning content areas were small-group facilitation, feedback, adult learning principles, and clinical skills teaching. Assessment methods included evaluations from student-learners (72%) and direct observation/videotaping (59%). From the qualitative analysis, benefit themes included development of future physician-educators, enhancement of learning, and teaching assistance for faculty. Obstacles were competition with other educational demands, difficulty in faculty recruitment/retention, and difficulty in convincing others of program value.
Conclusions: Formal SAT programs exist for 43 of 99 U.S. medical school respondents. Such programs should be instituted in all schools that use their students as teachers. National teaching competencies, best curriculum methods, and best methods to conduct skills reinforcement need to be determined. Finally, the SAT programs' impacts on patient care, on selection decisions of residency directors, and on residents' teaching effectiveness are areas for future research.