Extending growth curves: a trajectory monitoring approach to identification and interventions in struggling medical student learners

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2022 Apr 25. doi: 10.1007/s10459-022-10109-7. Online ahead of print.


Given gaps in both identifying and providing targeted interventions to struggling learners, the purpose of this study is to both improve rapid identification and to improve individualized academic advising for learners using this visual representation of performance. Across three graduating classes, individual growth curves were calculated for each student on National Board of Medical Examiners customized assessments during the pre-clerkship period using their deviation from the class average at each assessment point. These deviation scores were cumulatively summed over time and were regressed onto the sequence of exams. We analyzed the difference between the regression slopes of those students placed on Academic Probation (AP) versus not, as well as differences in slopes based on the timing of when a struggling learner was placed on AP to explore learner trajectory after identification. Students on AP had an average growth slope of - 6.06 compared to + 0.89 for those not on AP. Findings also suggested that students who were placed on AP early during pre-clerkship showed significant improvement (positive changes in trajectory) compared to students identified later in the curriculum. Our findings suggest that earlier academic probation and intervention with struggling learners may have a positive effect on academic trajectory. Future research can better explore how academic trajectory monitoring and performance review can be regularly used in advising sessions with students.

Keywords: Academic advising; Academic coaching; Assessment; Remediation; Undergraduate medical education.