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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Peer-assisted learning has many purported benefits including preparing students as educators, improving communication skills and reducing faculty teaching burden. But comparatively little is known about the effects of teaching on learning outcomes of peer educators in medical education.
One hundred and thirty-five first year medical students were randomly allocated to 11 small groups for the Gastroenterology/Hematology Course at the University of Calgary. For each of 22 sessions, two students were randomly selected from each group to be peer educators. Students were surveyed to estimate time spent preparing as peer educator versus group member. Students completed an end-of-course 94 question multiple choice exam. A paired t-test was used to compare performance on clinical presentations for which students were peer educators to those for which they were not.
Preparation time increased from a mean (SD) of 36 (33) minutes baseline to 99 (60) minutes when peer educators (Cohen's d = 1.3; p < 0.001). The mean score (SD) for clinical presentations in which students were peer educators was 80.7% (11.8) compared to77.6% (6.9) for those which they were not (d = 0.33; p < 0.01).
Our results suggest that involvement in teaching small group sessions improves medical students' knowledge acquisition and retention.