Purpose: The acquisition of clinical-technical skills is of particular importance for the doctors of tomorrow. Procedural skills are often trained for the first time in skills laboratories, which provide a sheltered learning environment. However, costs to implement and maintain skills laboratories are considerably high. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to investigate students’ patterns of attendance of voluntary skills-lab training sessions and thereby answer the following question: Is it possible to measure an effect of the theoretical construct related to motivational psychology described in the literature – ‘Assessment drives learning’ – reflected in patterns of attendance at voluntary skills-lab training sessions? By answering this question, design recommendations for curriculum planning and resource management should be derived.
Method: A retrospective, descriptive analysis of student skills-lab attendance related to voluntary basic and voluntary advanced skills-lab sessions was conducted. The attendance patterns of a total of 340 third-year medical students in different successive year groups from the Medical Faculty at the University of Heidelberg were assessed.
Results: Students showed a preference for voluntary basic skills-lab training sessions, which were relevant to clinical skills assessment, especially at the beginning and at the end of the term. Voluntary advanced skills-lab training sessions without reference to clinical skills assessment were used especially at the beginning of the term, but declined towards the end of term.
Conclusion: The results show a clear influence of assessments on students’ attendance at skills-lab training sessions. First recommendations for curriculum design and resource management will be described. Nevertheless, further prospective research studies will be necessary to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the motivational factors impacting students’ utilisation of voluntary skills-lab training in order to reach a sufficient concordance between students’ requirements and faculty offers, as well as resource management.