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Peer Teaching in a Third-Year Family Medicine Clerkship

Marquita Samuels, BA and Sarah Stumbar, MD, MPH

The family medicine clerkship curriculum at the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine includes a student teaching assignment that requires students to prepare and deliver a 10 to 15-minute presentation on a predetermined topic. Presentations are graded by a faculty member. The assigned presentation topics consist of the family medicine clerkship’s core cases that students are required to see in our outpatient clinics. These include topics such as constipation, outpatient diabetes management, cough, and arthritis. To assist students in completing their teaching assignment, we provide the learning objectives and suggested resources for each core case in our syllabus, and strongly suggest that students cover these objectives during their presentations.

How does student teaching benefit faculty? Student teaching presentations are organized into 2-hour blocks, with about six to eight presentations per block. Each block requires one faculty member to grade the presentations and to answer any questions that the presenter is unable to answer, while also verifying the presented information. In departments with limited number of faculty, student teaching may take pressure off the clerkship faculty to present on all the core cases, allowing them to focus their energy on other, more integrated didactic sessions. Additionally, covering core cases in didactics ensures some level of uniformity between clinical sites by making sure all students are exposed to the same information about these essential topics.

How does student teaching benefit students? Students are forced to learn their one topic in detail, and to practice their presentation skills in front of their classmates. Anecdotally, multiple students have told us that this is their first time giving a formal presentation. Throughout their careers, formal presentations will be a frequent expectation; this environment, with well- and predefined objectives, is a supportive place to start.1 Additionally, the 10 to 15-minute time limit forces students to streamline information down to key points. Having to give precise presentations is good practice for teaching on the wards or educating patients.

The student teaching assignment covers topics in a condensed, high-yield format using a variety of presentation techniques. Some students make Jeopardy games, crossword puzzles, matching games, and develop cases, to name a few of the creative options. The variety of presenters and techniques used, in theory, keeps students more interested than they would be just listening to one faculty member present each topic.

To date, we have received 45 evaluations of the student teaching activity. Forty (89%) of the students strongly agreed or agreed that they enjoyed teaching their peers; 38 (84%) of the students strongly agreed or agreed that the student teaching session made them feel important and relevant as an instructor; and 41 (91%) of the students strongly agreed or agreed that the student teaching assignment helped them to improve their teaching skills. Thirty-nine (87%) of the students strongly agreed or agreed that the student teaching session improved their confidence to help others with their learning.

Overall, students had a positive experience with this assignment. They felt that student teaching helped them to improve their teaching skills and confidence related to these skills. Students felt that the assignment helped them to increase their understanding of the topic that they taught to their peers, and they also learned from their peers’ presentations. While this is just preliminary data, students reported that this assignment helped them to increase their knowledge level and teaching abilities. As such, for the upcoming academic year, we plan to continue with student teaching, as it has received positive feedback from students and faculty.

Reference

  1. Naeger DM, Conrad M, Nguyen J, Kohi MP, Webb EM. Students teaching students: evaluation of a "near-peer" teaching experience. Acad Radiol. 2013;20(9):1177-1182. Acad Radiol. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1kt0d3gx. Accessed March 28, 2018.

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