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1.  Five teacher profiles in student-centred curricula based on their conceptions of learning and teaching 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14(1):220.
Background
Teachers’ conceptions of learning and teaching are partly unconscious. However, they are critical for the delivery of education and affect students’ learning outcomes. Lasting changes in teaching behaviour can only be realized if conceptions of teachers have been changed accordingly. Previously we constructed a questionnaire named COLT to measure conceptions. In the present study, we investigated if different teacher profiles could be assessed which are based on the teachers’ conceptions. These teacher profiles might have implications for individual teachers, for faculty development activities and for institutes. Our research questions were: (1) Can we identify teacher profiles based on the COLT? (2) If so, how are these teacher profiles associated with other teacher characteristics?
Methods
The COLT questionnaire was sent electronically to all teachers in the first three years of the undergraduate curriculum of Medicine in two medical schools in the Netherlands with student-centred education. The COLT (18 items, 5 point Likert scales) comprises three scales: ‘teacher centredness’, ‘appreciation of active learning’ and ‘orientation to professional practice’. We also collected personal information about the participants and their occupational characteristics. Teacher profiles were studied using a K-means cluster analysis and calculating Chi squares.
Results
The response rate was 49.4% (N = 319/646). A five-cluster solution fitted the data best, resulting in five teacher profiles based on their conceptions as measured by the COLT. We named the teacher profiles: Transmitters (most traditional), Organizers, Intermediates, Facilitators and Conceptual Change Agents (most modern). The teacher profiles differed from each other in personal and occupational characteristics.
Conclusions
Based on teachers’ conceptions of learning and teaching, five teacher profiles were found in student-centred education. We offered suggestions how insight into these teacher profiles might be useful for individual teachers, for faculty development activities and for institutes and departments, especially if involved in a curriculum reform towards student-centred education.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-220
PMCID: PMC4287471  PMID: 25324193
Conceptions of learning and teaching; Teachers; Reflection; Faculty development
2.  Why peer assessment helps to improve clinical performance in undergraduate physical therapy education: a mixed methods design 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:117.
Background
Peer Assessment (PA) in health professions education encourages students to develop a critical attitude towards their own and their peers’ performance. We designed a PA task to assess students’ clinical skills (including reasoning, communication, physical examination and treatment skills) in a role-play that simulated physical therapy (PT) practice. Students alternately performed in the role of PT, assessor, and patient. Oral face-to-face feedback was provided as well as written feedback and scores.
This study aims to explore the impact of PA on the improvement of clinical performance of undergraduate PT students.
Methods
The PA task was analyzed and decomposed into task elements. A qualitative approach was used to explore students’ perceptions of the task and the task elements. Semi-structured interviews with second year students were conducted to explore the perceived impact of these task elements on performance improvement. Students were asked to select the elements perceived valuable, to rank them from highest to lowest learning value, and to motivate their choices. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed, using a phenomenographical approach and following template analysis guidelines. A quantitative approach was used to describe the ranking results.
Results
Quantitative analyses showed that the perceived impact on learning varied widely. Performing the clinical task in the PT role, was assigned to the first place (1), followed by receiving expert feedback (2), and observing peer performance (3). Receiving peer feedback was not perceived the most powerful task element.
Qualitative analyses resulted in three emerging themes: pre-performance, true-performance, and post-performance triggers for improvement. Each theme contained three categories: learning activities, outcomes, and conditions for learning.
Intended learning activities were reported, such as transferring prior learning to a new application context and unintended learning activities, such as modelling a peer’s performance. Outcomes related to increased self-confidence, insight in performance standards and awareness of improvement areas. Conditions for learning referred to the quality of peer feedback.
Conclusions
PA may be a powerful tool to improve clinical performance, although peer feedback is not perceived the most powerful element. Peer assessors in undergraduate PT education use idiosyncratic strategies to assess their peers’ performance.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-117
PMCID: PMC4064265  PMID: 24928420
Peer assessment; Peer feedback; Self-assessment; Clinical performance
3.  Factors influencing trainers’ feedback-giving behavior: a cross-sectional survey 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:65.
Background
The literature provides some insight into the role of feedback givers, but little information about within-trainer factors influencing ‘feedback-giving behaviours’. We looked for relationships between characteristics of feedback givers (self-efficacy, task perception, neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness) and elements of observation and feedback (frequency, quality of content and consequential impact).
Methods
We developed and tested several hypotheses regarding the characteristics and elements in a cross-sectional digital survey among GP trainers and their trainees in 2011 and 2012. We conducted bivariate analysis using Pearson correlations and performed multiple regression analysis.
Results
Sixty-two trainer-trainee couples from three Dutch institutions for postgraduate GP training participated in the study. Trainer scores on ‘task perception’ and on a scale of the trait ‘neuroticism’ correlated positively with frequency of feedback and quality of feedback content. Multiple regression analysis supported positive correlations between task perception and frequency of feedback and between neuroticism and quality of feedback content. No other correlations were found.
Conclusion
This study contributes to the literature on feedback giving by revealing factors that influence feedback-giving behaviour, namely neuroticism and task perception. Trainers whose task perception included facilitation of observation and feedback (task perception) and trainers who were concerned about the safety of their patients during consultations with trainees (neuroticism) engaged more frequently in observation and feedback and gave feedback of higher quality.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-65
PMCID: PMC4230419  PMID: 24690387
Feedback-giving; Neuroticism; Task perception; Big five
4.  Students’ perceptions of anatomy across the undergraduate problem-based learning medical curriculum: a phenomenographical study 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:152.
Background
To get insight in how theoretical knowledge is transformed into clinical skills, important information may arise from mapping the development of anatomical knowledge during the undergraduate medical curriculum. If we want to gain a better understanding of teaching and learning in anatomy, it may be pertinent to move beyond the question of how and consider also the what, why and when of anatomy education.
Methods
A purposive sample of 78 medical students from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th year of a PBL curriculum participated in 4 focus groups. Each group came together twice, and all meetings were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed with template analysis using a phenomenographical approach.
Results
Five major topics emerged and are described covering the students’ perceptions on their anatomy education and anatomical knowledge: 1) motivation to study anatomy, 2) the relevance of anatomical knowledge, 3) assessment of anatomical knowledge, 4) students’ (in)security about their anatomical knowledge and 5) the use of anatomical knowledge in clinical practice.
Conclusions
Results indicated that a PBL approach in itself was not enough to ensure adequate learning of anatomy, and support the hypothesis that educational principles like time-on-task and repetition, have a stronger impact on students’ perceived and actual anatomical knowledge than the educational approach underpinning a curriculum. For example, students state that repetitive studying of the subject increases retention of knowledge to a greater extent than stricter assessment, and teaching in context enhances motivation and transfer. Innovations in teaching and assessment, like spiral curriculum, teaching in context, teaching for transfer and assessment for learning (rewarding understanding and higher order cognitive skills), are required to improve anatomy education.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-152
PMCID: PMC4225514  PMID: 24252155
Anatomy; Basic sciences; Curriculum; Education; Knowledge; Learning; Problem based learning
5.  Remediation of at-risk medical students: theory in action 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:132.
Background
Previous work has shown that a programme that draws on a blend of theories makes a positive difference to outcomes for students who fail and repeat their first semester at medical school. Exploration of student and teacher perspectives revealed that remediation of struggling medical students can be achieved through a cognitive apprenticeship within a small community of inquiry. This community needs expert teachers capable of performing a unique combination of roles (facilitator, nurturing mentor, disciplinarian, diagnostician and role model), with high levels of teaching presence and practical wisdom. Yet, despite participants’ convergent opinions on the elements of effective remediation, significant differences were found between outcomes of students working with experienced and inexperienced teachers. The current study explores the actual practice of teachers on this remediation course, aiming to exemplify elements of our theory of remediation and explore differences between teachers.
Methods
Since it is in the classroom context that the interactions that constitute the complex process of remediation emerge, this practice-based research has focused on direct observation of classroom teaching. Nineteen hours of small group sessions were recorded and transcribed. Drawing on ethnography and sociocultural discourse analysis, selected samples of talk-in-context demonstrate how the various elements of remediation play out in practice, highlighting aspects that are most effective, and identifying differences between experienced and novice teachers.
Results
Long-term student outcomes are strongly correlated to teacher experience (r, 0.81). Compared to inexperienced teachers, experienced teachers provide more challenging, disruptive facilitation, and take a dialogic stance that encourages more collaborative group dynamics. They are more expert at diagnosing cognitive errors, provide frequent metacognitive time-outs and make explicit links across the curriculum.
Conclusions
Remediation is effective in small groups where dialogue is used for collaborative knowledge construction and social regulation. This requires facilitation by experienced teachers who attend to details of both content and process, and use timely interventions to foster curiosity and the will to learn. These teachers should actively challenge students’ language use, logical inconsistencies and uncertainties, problematize their assumptions, and provide a metacognitive regulatory voice that can generate attitudinal shifts and nurture the development of independent critical thinkers.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-132
PMCID: PMC3851205  PMID: 24070196
At-risk students; Remediation; Small group teaching; Classroom discourse; Facilitation skills; Teaching experience; Pedagogical context knowledge
6.  Programmatic assessment of competency-based workplace learning: when theory meets practice 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:123.
Background
In competency-based medical education emphasis has shifted towards outcomes, capabilities, and learner-centeredness. Together with a focus on sustained evidence of professional competence this calls for new methods of teaching and assessment. Recently, medical educators advocated the use of a holistic, programmatic approach towards assessment. Besides maximum facilitation of learning it should improve the validity and reliability of measurements and documentation of competence development. We explored how, in a competency-based curriculum, current theories on programmatic assessment interacted with educational practice.
Methods
In a development study including evaluation, we investigated the implementation of a theory-based programme of assessment. Between April 2011 and May 2012 quantitative evaluation data were collected and used to guide group interviews that explored the experiences of students and clinical supervisors with the assessment programme. We coded the transcripts and emerging topics were organised into a list of lessons learned.
Results
The programme mainly focuses on the integration of learning and assessment by motivating and supporting students to seek and accumulate feedback. The assessment instruments were aligned to cover predefined competencies to enable aggregation of information in a structured and meaningful way. Assessments that were designed as formative learning experiences were increasingly perceived as summative by students. Peer feedback was experienced as a valuable method for formative feedback. Social interaction and external guidance seemed to be of crucial importance to scaffold self-directed learning. Aggregating data from individual assessments into a holistic portfolio judgement required expertise and extensive training and supervision of judges.
Conclusions
A programme of assessment with low-stakes assessments providing simultaneously formative feedback and input for summative decisions proved not easy to implement. Careful preparation and guidance of the implementation process was crucial. Assessment for learning requires meaningful feedback with each assessment. Special attention should be paid to the quality of feedback at individual assessment moments. Comprehensive attention for faculty development and training for students is essential for the successful implementation of an assessment programme.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-123
PMCID: PMC3851012  PMID: 24020944
Programmatic assessment; Workplace learning; Undergraduate (veterinary) medical education; (Peer) Feedback; Mentoring; Personal development
7.  Quality of written narrative feedback and reflection in a modified mini-clinical evaluation exercise: an observational study 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:97.
Background
Research has shown that narrative feedback, (self) reflections and a plan to undertake and evaluate improvements are key factors for effective feedback on clinical performance. We investigated the quantity of narrative comments comprising feedback (by trainers), self-reflections (by trainees) and action plans (by trainer and trainee) entered on a mini-CEX form that was modified for use in general practice training and to encourage trainers and trainees to provide narrative comments. In view of the importance of specificity as an indicator of feedback quality, we additionally examined the specificity of the comments.
Method
We collected and analysed modified mini-CEX forms completed by GP trainers and trainees. Since each trainee has the same trainer for the duration of one year, we used trainer-trainee pairs as the unit of analysis. We determined for all forms the frequency of the different types of narrative comments and rated their specificity on a three-point scale: specific, moderately specific, not specific. Specificity was compared between trainee-trainer pairs.
Results
We collected 485 completed modified mini-CEX forms from 54 trainees (mean of 8.8 forms per trainee; range 1–23; SD 5.6). Trainer feedback was more frequently provided than trainee self-reflections, and action plans were very rare. The comments were generally specific, but showed large differences between trainee-trainer pairs.
Conclusion
The frequency of self-reflection and action plans varied, all comments were generally specific and there were substantial and consistent differences between trainee-trainer pairs in the specificity of comments. We therefore conclude that feedback is not so much determined by the instrument as by the users. Interventions to improve the educational effects of the feedback procedure should therefore focus more on the users than on the instruments.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-97
PMCID: PMC3505168  PMID: 23075126
8.  Computer supported collaborative learning in a clerkship: an exploratory study on the relation of discussion activity and revision of critical appraisal papers 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:79.
Background
Medical students in clerkship are continuously confronted with real and relevant patient problems. To support clinical problem solving skills, students perform a Critical Appraisal of a Topic (CAT) task, often resulting in a paper. Because such a paper may contain errors, students could profit from discussion with peers, leading to paper revision. Active peer discussion by a Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) environment show positive medical students perceptions on subjective knowledge improvement. High students’ activity during discussions in a CSCL environment demonstrated higher task-focussed discussion reflecting higher levels of knowledge construction. However, it remains unclear whether high discussion activity influences students’ decisions revise their CAT paper. The aim of this research is to examine whether students who revise their critical appraisal papers after discussion in a CSCL environment show more task-focussed activity and discuss more intensively on critical appraisal topics than students who do not revise their papers.
Methods
Forty-seven medical students, stratified in subgroups, participated in a structured asynchronous online discussion of individual written CAT papers on self-selected clinical problems. The discussion was structured by three critical appraisal topics. After the discussion, the students could revise their paper. For analysis purposes, all students’ postings were blinded and analysed by the investigator, unaware of students characteristics and whether or not the paper was revised. Postings were counted and analysed by an independent rater, Postings were assigned into outside activity, non-task-focussed activity or task-focussed activity. Additionally, postings were assigned to one of the three critical appraisal topics. Analysis results were compared by revised and unrevised papers.
Results
Twenty-four papers (51.6%) were revised after the online discussion. The discussions of the revised papers showed significantly higher numbers of postings, more task-focussed activities, and more postings about the two critical appraisal topics: “appraisal of the selected article(s)”, and “relevant conclusion regarding the clinical problem”.
Conclusion
A CSCL environment can support medical students in the execution and critical appraisal of authentic tasks in the clinical workplace. Revision of CAT papers appears to be related to discussions activity, more specifically reflecting high task-focussed activity of critical appraisal topics.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-79
PMCID: PMC3507639  PMID: 22906218
9.  How do postgraduate GP trainees regulate their learning and what helps and hinders them? A qualitative study 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:67.
Background
Self-regulation is essential for professional development. It involves monitoring of performance, identifying domains for improvement, undertaking learning activities, applying newly learned knowledge and skills and self-assessing performance. Since self-assessment alone is ineffective in identifying weaknesses, learners should seek external feedback too. Externally regulated educational interventions, like reflection, learning portfolios, assessments and progress meetings, are increasingly used to scaffold self-regulation.
The aim of this study is to explore how postgraduate trainees regulate their learning in the workplace, how external regulation promotes self-regulation and which elements facilitate or impede self-regulation and learning.
Methods
In a qualitative study with a phenomenologic approach we interviewed first- and third-year GP trainees from two universities in the Netherlands. Twenty-one verbatim transcripts were coded. Through iterative discussion the researchers agreed on the interpretation of the data and saturation was reached.
Results
Trainees used a short and a long self-regulation loop. The short loop took one week at most and was focused on problems that were easy to resolve and needed minor learning activities. The long loop was focused on complex or recurring problems needing multiple and planned longitudinal learning activities. External assessments and formal training affected the long but not the short loop. The supervisor had a facilitating role in both loops. Self-confidence was used to gauge competence.Elements influencing self-regulation were classified into three dimensions: personal (strong motivation to become a good doctor), interpersonal (stimulation from others) and contextual (organizational and educational features).
Conclusions
Trainees did purposefully self-regulate their learning. Learning in the short loop may not be visible to others. Trainees should be encouraged to actively seek and use external feedback in both loops. An important question for further research is which educational interventions might be used to scaffold learning in the short loop. Investing in supervisor quality remains important, since they are close to trainee learning in both loops.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-67
PMCID: PMC3479408  PMID: 22866981
Self-regulation; Workplace-based learning; Postgraduate training; Professional development; Qualitative research methods
10.  Expert validation of fit-for-purpose guidelines for designing programmes of assessment 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:20.
Background
An assessment programme, a purposeful mix of assessment activities, is necessary to achieve a complete picture of assessee competence. High quality assessment programmes exist, however, design requirements for such programmes are still unclear. We developed guidelines for design based on an earlier developed framework which identified areas to be covered. A fitness-for-purpose approach defining quality was adopted to develop and validate guidelines.
Methods
First, in a brainstorm, ideas were generated, followed by structured interviews with 9 international assessment experts. Then, guidelines were fine-tuned through analysis of the interviews. Finally, validation was based on expert consensus via member checking.
Results
In total 72 guidelines were developed and in this paper the most salient guidelines are discussed. The guidelines are related and grouped per layer of the framework. Some guidelines were so generic that these are applicable in any design consideration. These are: the principle of proportionality, rationales should underpin each decisions, and requirement of expertise. Logically, many guidelines focus on practical aspects of assessment. Some guidelines were found to be clear and concrete, others were less straightforward and were phrased more as issues for contemplation.
Conclusions
The set of guidelines is comprehensive and not bound to a specific context or educational approach. From the fitness-for-purpose principle, guidelines are eclectic, requiring expertise judgement to use them appropriately in different contexts. Further validation studies to test practicality are required.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-20
PMCID: PMC3676146  PMID: 22510502
11.  A model of the pre-assessment learning effects of assessment is operational in an undergraduate clinical context 
Background
No validated model exists to explain the learning effects of assessment, a problem when designing and researching assessment for learning. We recently developed a model explaining the pre-assessment learning effects of summative assessment in a theory teaching context. The challenge now is to validate this model. The purpose of this study was to explore whether the model was operational in a clinical context as a first step in this process.
Methods
Given the complexity of the model, we adopted a qualitative approach. Data from in-depth interviews with eighteen medical students were subject to content analysis. We utilised a code book developed previously using grounded theory. During analysis, we remained alert to data that might not conform to the coding framework and open to the possibility of deploying inductive coding. Ethical clearance and informed consent were obtained.
Results
The three components of the model i.e., assessment factors, mechanism factors and learning effects were all evident in the clinical context. Associations between these components could all be explained by the model. Interaction with preceptors was identified as a new subcomponent of assessment factors. The model could explain the interrelationships of the three facets of this subcomponent i.e., regular accountability, personal consequences and emotional valence of the learning environment, with previously described components of the model.
Conclusions
The model could be utilized to analyse and explain observations in an assessment context different to that from which it was derived. In the clinical setting, the (negative) influence of preceptors on student learning was particularly prominent. In this setting, learning effects resulted not only from the high-stakes nature of summative assessment but also from personal stakes, e.g. for esteem and agency. The results suggest that to influence student learning, consequences should accrue from assessment that are immediate, concrete and substantial. The model could have utility as a planning or diagnostic tool in practice and research settings.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-9
PMCID: PMC3375194  PMID: 22420839
12.  The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of clinical skills 
BMC Medical Education  2011;11:101.
Background
The role of deliberate practice in medical students' development from novice to expert was examined for preclinical skill training.
Methods
Students in years 1-3 completed 34 Likert type items, adapted from a questionnaire about the use of deliberate practice in cognitive learning. Exploratory factor analysis and reliability analysis were used to validate the questionnaire. Analysis of variance examined differences between years and regression analysis the relationship between deliberate practice and skill test results.
Results
875 students participated (90%). Factor analysis yielded four factors: planning, concentration/dedication, repetition/revision, study style/self reflection. Student scores on 'Planning' increased over time, score on sub-scale 'repetition/revision' decreased. Student results on the clinical skill test correlated positively with scores on subscales 'planning' and 'concentration/dedication' in years 1 and 3, and with scores on subscale 'repetition/revision' in year 1.
Conclusions
The positive effects on test results suggest that the role of deliberate practice in medical education merits further study. The cross-sectional design is a limitation, the large representative sample a strength of the study. The vanishing effect of repetition/revision may be attributable to inadequate feedback. Deliberate practice advocates sustained practice to address weaknesses, identified by (self-)assessment and stimulated by feedback. Further studies should use a longitudinal prospective design and extend the scope to expertise development during residency and beyond.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-101
PMCID: PMC3293754  PMID: 22141427
13.  Characteristics of communication guidelines that facilitate or impede guideline use: a focus group study 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:31.
Background
The quality of doctor-patient communication has a major impact on the quality of medical care. Communication guidelines define best practices for doctor patient communication and are therefore an important tool for improving communication. However, adherence to communication guidelines remains low, despite doctors participating in intensive communication skill training. Implementation research shows that adherence is higher for guidelines in general that are user centred and feasible, which implies that they are consistent with users' opinions, tap into users' existing skills and fit into existing routines. Developers of communication guidelines seem to have been somewhat negligent with regard to user preferences and guideline feasibility. In order to promote the development of user centred and practicable communication guidelines, we elicited user preferences and identified which guideline characteristics facilitate or impede guideline use.
Methods
Seven focus group interviews were conducted with experienced GPs, communication trainers (GPs and behavioural scientists) and communication learners (GP trainees and medical students) and three focus group interviews with groups of GP trainees only. All interviews were transcribed and analysed qualitatively.
Results
The participants identified more impeding guideline characteristics than facilitating ones. The most important impeding characteristic was that guidelines do not easily fit into GPs' day-to-day practice. This is due to rigidity and inefficiency of communication guidelines and erroneous assumptions underpinning guideline development. The most important facilitating characteristic was guideline structure. Guidelines that were structured in distinct phases helped users to remain in control of consultations, which was especially useful in complicated consultations.
Conclusion
Although communication guidelines are generally considered useful, especially for structuring consultations, their usefulness is impaired by lack of flexibility and applicability to practice routines. User centred and feasible guidelines should combine the advantages of helping doctors to structure consultations with flexibility to tailor communication strategies to specific contexts and situations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-8-31
PMCID: PMC1885263  PMID: 17506878

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