The use of peer optic nerve photographs for teaching direct ophthalmoscopy

Ophthalmology. 2013 Apr;120(4):761-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2012.09.020. Epub 2012 Dec 12.


Objective: To use a novel teaching exercise to encourage students to practice ophthalmoscopy and to measure the learning effect both subjectively and objectively.

Design: Comparative case series.

Participants: One hundred thirty-one fourth-year medical students on their 1-week ophthalmology rotations with 89 in the experimental group and 42 in the control group.

Methods: Those in the experimental group had 1 eye dilated and their optic nerve photographed on the first day. The next day, these students received an unlabeled optic nerve photograph belonging to 1 of their peers (typically 8-10 per group) and were given 3 days to identify the student matching the photograph. The students in the control group were simply encouraged to practice ophthalmoscopy on each other without the use of photographs.

Main outcome measures: Both objective and subjective changes from the beginning to the end of the rotation were measured and compared between the 2 groups.

Results: In the 89 students who used peer optic nerve photographs, 75 (84.3%) showed improvement in direct ophthalmoscopy skills over the course of the week. In contrast, only 12 (28.6%) of the 42 control students demonstrated an objective improvement (P<0.001). The subjective confidence levels likewise were more improved in the students who took part in the optic nerve photograph exercise.

Conclusions: These results suggest that the task of matching an unknown optic nerve photograph to the correct eye of a peer leads to increased self-confidence and more proficient use of the direct ophthalmoscope.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Humans
  • Ophthalmology / education*
  • Ophthalmoscopy*
  • Optic Nerve / anatomy & histology*
  • Photography / methods*
  • Students, Medical*
  • Teaching / methods*