Impact of an evidence-based medicine curriculum based on adult learning theory

J Gen Intern Med. 1997 Dec;12(12):742-50. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1997.07159.x.


Objective: To develop and implement an evidence-based medicine (EBM) curriculum and determine its effectiveness in improving residents' EBM behaviors and skills.

Design: Description of the curriculum and a multifaceted evaluation, including a pretest-posttest controlled trial.

Setting: University-based primary care internal medicine residency program.

Participants: Second- and third-year internal medicine residents (N = 34).

Interventions: A 7-week EBM curriculum in which residents work through the steps of evidence-based decisions for their own patients. Based on adult learning theory, the educational strategy included a resident-directed tutorial format, use of real clinical encounters, and specific EBM facilitating techniques for faculty.

Measurements and main results: Behaviors and self-assessed competencies in EBM were measured with questionnaires. Evidence-based medicine skills were assessed with a 17-point test, which required free text responses to questions based on a clinical vignette and a test article. After the intervention, residents participating in the curriculum (case subjects) increased their use of original studies to answer clinical questions, their examination of methods and results sections of articles, and their self-assessed EBM competence in three of five domains of EBM, while the control subjects did not. The case subjects significantly improved their scores on the EBM skills test (8.5 to 11.0, p = .001), while the control subjects did not (8.5 to 7.1, p = .09). The difference in the posttest scores of the two groups was 3.9 points (p = .001, 95% confidence interval 1.9, 5.9).

Conclusions: An EBM curriculum based on adult learning theory improves residents' EBM skills and certain EBM behaviors. The description and multifaceted evaluation can guide medical educators involved in EBM training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Curriculum*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Learning
  • Models, Educational