How curricular changes influence medical students' perceptions of basic science: A pilot study

PLoS One. 2020 Jul 22;15(7):e0236365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236365. eCollection 2020.

Abstract

Theory: The perceived value of study material may have implications on learning and long-term retention. This study compares the perceived value of basic science of medical students from schools with a traditional "2+2" curriculum and the USMLE Step 1 placed before core clerkships to those from medical schools that have undergone curricular revisions, resulting in shortened pre-clerkship curricula and administration of the USMLE Step 1 after core clerkships.

Hypothesis: We hypothesize that differences in curricula, particularly duration of pre-clerkship curriculum and timing of the USMLE Step 1, affect medical students' perceived value of basic science.

Methods: A twenty item anonymous questionnaire using a 5-point Likert scale was developed to assess medical students' perceptions of basic science. The questionnaire was distributed to third-year medical students across four medical schools. Generalized linear models and p-values were calculated comparing the perceived value and use of basic science between medical schools with the USMLE Step 1 before clerkships and 2-years of basic science (BC) and medical schools with the USMLE Step 1 after core clerkships and 1.5-years of basic science (AC).

Results: The questionnaire was distributed to 695 eligible students and completed by 287 students. Students at BC schools tended to view basic science as more essential for clinical practice than students at AC schools across both outcomes (rating independence of basic science and clinical practice, AC school mean = 2.97, BC school mean = 2.73, p = 0.0017; rating importance of basic science to clinical practice, AC school mean = 3.30, BC schools mean = 3.50, p = 0.0135).

Conclusions: Our study suggests that students who have a longer basic science curriculum tend to value basic science greater than students with a shorter basic science curriculum. The timing of the USMLE Step 1 may also influence this relationship. Curricular decisions, such as reductions in pre-clerkship curricula and administration of the USMLE Step 1 after clerkships, may impact medical students' perceptions of the value of basic science to clinical practice. This can have implications on their future engagement with basic science and should be considered when modifying curriculum.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Clerkship / organization & administration
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Licensure, Medical
  • Pilot Projects
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.