With the introduction of integrated problem-based learning (PBL) program in the medical curriculum, there is a need to create laboratory classes that suit students’ learning needs and the changes introduced to the curriculum. This paper outlines the development and implementation of four integrated laboratory classes (ILCs) at King Saud University College of Medicine. It also examines whether core concepts addressed in these classes were learned and retained and how the students perceived the ILCs.
ILCs are based on enhancing enquiry-based learning, and encouraging students to work on tasks in small groups (apply and integrate knowledge from biochemistry, pathology and microbiology) and conduct a laboratory procedure (practical part). In two of these ILCs, a pretest comprising 15 multiple-choice questions were administrated at the start of the class and an identical posttest was administrated at the end of these classes. Performance of the students in the Objective Structured Practical Examination (OSPE) at the end of the blocks was also evaluated. Students’ perceptions were evaluated using a questionnaire completed at the end of each class.
A total of 247, 252, 238, and 244 students participated in practical classes covering cerebrospinal fluid infection, small intestine, liver function tests and adrenal gland function, respectively. Students got higher scores in posttests compared to pre-test scores in two classes (12.68 ± 2.03 vs 6.58 ± 3.39 and 13.02 ± 2.03 vs 7.43 ± 2.68, respectively). Paired t-test showed that the difference was significant (P < 0.001) in both tests. The mean scores of students in stations dealing with ILCs at the end of the block examinations were not significantly different from the mean scores for other stations not related to ILCs. The questionnaire indicated that most students expressed positive attitude towards working on tasks and applying knowledge learnt. Students also felt that conducting laboratory procedures and interpreting laboratory findings were valuable to their learning.
Given the increase in the posttest scores (short-term retention) and the satisfactory performance of students at the end of block examinations (long-term retention) together with the students’ satisfaction, the study suggests that the core concepts addressed in these classes were learned and retained.