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1.  Managing the complexity of doing it all: an exploratory study on students’ experiences when trained stepwise in conducting consultations 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:206.
At most medical schools the components required to conduct a consultation, medical knowledge, communication, clinical reasoning and physical examination skills, are trained separately. Afterwards, all the knowledge and skills students acquired must be integrated into complete consultations, an art that lies at the heart of the medical profession. Inevitably, students experience conducting consultations as complex and challenging. Literature emphasizes the importance of three didactic course principles: moving from partial tasks to whole task learning, diminishing supervisors’ support and gradually increasing students’ responsibility. This study explores students’ experiences of an integrated consultation course using these three didactic principles to support them in this difficult task.
Six focus groups were conducted with 20 pre-clerkship and 19 clerkship students in total. Discussions were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed by Nvivo using the constant comparative strategy within a thematic analysis.
Conducting complete consultations motivated students in their learning process as future physician. Initially, students were very much focused on medical problem solving. Completing the whole task of a consultation obligated them to transfer their theoretical medical knowledge into applicable clinical knowledge on the spot. Furthermore, diminishing the support of a supervisor triggered students to reflect on their own actions but contrasted with their increased appreciation of critical feedback. Increasing students’ responsibility stimulated their active learning but made some students feel overloaded. These students were anxious to miss patient information or not being able to take the right decisions or to answer patients’ questions, which sometimes resulted in evasive coping techniques, such as talking faster to prevent the patient asking questions.
The complex task of conducting complete consultations should be implemented early within medical curricula because students need time to organize their medical knowledge into applicable clinical knowledge. An integrated consultation course should comprise a step-by-step teaching strategy with a variety of supervisors’ feedback modi, adapted to students’ competence. Finally, students should be guided in formulating achievable standards to prevent them from feeling overloaded in practicing complete consultations with simulated or real patients.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-206) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4181426  PMID: 25257383
Conducting complete consultations; Didactic course principles; MeSH terms; Education; Medical; Undergraduate; Clinical competence; Physician-patient relations; Professional practice
2.  Does reflection have an effect upon case-solving abilities of undergraduate medical students? 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:75.
Reflection on professional experience is increasingly accepted as a critical attribute for health care practice; however, evidence that it has a positive impact on performance remains scarce. This study investigated whether, after allowing for the effects of knowledge and consultation skills, reflection had an independent effect on students’ ability to solve problem cases.
Data was collected from 362 undergraduate medical students at Ghent University solving video cases and reflected on the experience of doing so. For knowledge and consultation skills results on a progress test and a course teaching consultation skills were used respectively. Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis was used to test the relationship between the quality of case-solving (dependent variable) and reflection skills, knowledge, and consultation skills (dependent variables).
Only students with data on all variables available (n = 270) were included for analysis. The model was significant (Anova F(3,269) = 11.00, p < 0.001, adjusted R square 0.10) with all variables significantly contributing.
Medical students’ reflection had a small but significant effect on case-solving, which supports reflection as an attribute for performance. These findings suggest that it would be worthwhile testing the effect of reflection skills training on clinical competence.
PMCID: PMC3492041  PMID: 22889271
3.  Using video-cases to assess student reflection: Development and validation of an instrument 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:22.
Reflection is a meta-cognitive process, characterized by: 1. Awareness of self and the situation; 2. Critical analysis and understanding of both self and the situation; 3. Development of new perspectives to inform future actions. Assessors can only access reflections indirectly through learners’ verbal and/or written expressions. Being privy to the situation that triggered reflection could place reflective materials into context. Video-cases make that possible and, coupled with a scoring rubric, offer a reliable way of assessing reflection.
Fourth and fifth year undergraduate medical students were shown two interactive video-cases and asked to reflect on this experience, guided by six standard questions. The quality of students’ reflections were scored using a specially developed Student Assessment of Reflection Scoring rubric (StARS®). Reflection scores were analyzed concerning interrater reliability and ability to discriminate between students. Further, the intra-rater reliability and case specificity were estimated by means of a generalizability study with rating and case scenario as facets.
Reflection scores of 270 students ranged widely and interrater reliability was acceptable (Krippendorff’s alpha = 0.88). The generalizability study suggested 3 or 4 cases were needed to obtain reliable ratings from 4th year students and ≥ 6 cases from 5th year students.
Use of StARS® to assess student reflections triggered by standardized video-cases had acceptable discriminative ability and reliability. We offer this practical method for assessing reflection summatively, and providing formative feedback in training situations.
PMCID: PMC3426495  PMID: 22520632
4.  Factors confounding the assessment of reflection: a critical review 
BMC Medical Education  2011;11:104.
Reflection on experience is an increasingly critical part of professional development and lifelong learning. There is, however, continuing uncertainty about how best to put principle into practice, particularly as regards assessment. This article explores those uncertainties in order to find practical ways of assessing reflection.
We critically review four problems: 1. Inconsistent definitions of reflection; 2. Lack of standards to determine (in)adequate reflection; 3. Factors that complicate assessment; 4. Internal and external contextual factors affecting the assessment of reflection.
To address the problem of inconsistency, we identified processes that were common to a number of widely quoted theories and synthesised a model, which yielded six indicators that could be used in assessment instruments. We arrived at the conclusion that, until further progress has been made in defining standards, assessment must depend on developing and communicating local consensus between stakeholders (students, practitioners, teachers, supervisors, curriculum developers) about what is expected in exercises and formal tests. Major factors that complicate assessment are the subjective nature of reflection's content and the dependency on descriptions by persons being assessed about their reflection process, without any objective means of verification. To counter these validity threats, we suggest that assessment should focus on generic process skills rather than the subjective content of reflection and where possible to consider objective information about the triggering situation to verify described reflections. Finally, internal and external contextual factors such as motivation, instruction, character of assessment (formative or summative) and the ability of individual learning environments to stimulate reflection should be considered.
PMCID: PMC3268719  PMID: 22204704

Results 1-4 (4)