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1.  Psychometric properties and confirmatory factor analysis of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy 
BMC Medical Education  2011;11:54.
Empathy towards patients is considered to be associated with improved health outcomes. Many scales have been developed to measure empathy in health care professionals and students. The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) has been widely used. This study was designed to examine the psychometric properties and the theoretical structure of the JSPE.
A total of 853 medical students responded to the JSPE questionnaire. A hypothetical model was evaluated by structural equation modelling to determine the adequacy of goodness-of-fit to sample data.
The model showed excellent goodness-of-fit. Further analysis showed that the hypothesised three-factor model of the JSPE structure fits well across the gender differences of medical students.
The results supported scale multi-dimensionality. The 20 item JSPE provides a valid and reliable scale to measure empathy among not only undergraduate and graduate medical education programmes, but also practising doctors. The limitations of the study are discussed and some recommendations are made for future practice.
PMCID: PMC3167872  PMID: 21810268
Empathy; JSPE; confirmatory factor analysis; structure validation
2.  A descriptive study of medical educators' views of problem-based learning 
There is a growing amount of literature on the benefits and drawbacks of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) compared to conventional curricula. However, it seems that PBL research studies do not provide information rigorously and formally that can contribute to making evidence-based medical education decisions. The authors performed an investigation aimed at medical education scholars around the question, "What are the views of medical educators concerning the PBL approach?"
After framing the question, the method of data collection relied on asking medical educators to report their views on PBL. Two methods were used for collecting data: the questionnaire survey and an online discussion forum.
The descriptive analysis of the study showed that many participants value the PBL approach in the practice and training of doctors. However, some participants hold contrasting views upon the importance of the PBL approach in basic medical education. For example, more than a third of participants (38.5%) had a neutral stance on PBL as a student-oriented educational approach. The same proportion of participants also had a neutral view of the efficiency of traditional learning compared to a PBL tutorial. The open-ended question explored the importance of faculty development in PBL. A few participants had negative perceptions of the epistemological assumptions of PBL. Two themes emerged from the analysis of the forum repliers: the importance of the faculty role and self-managed education.
Whilst many participants valued the importance of the PBL approach in the practice and training of doctors and agreed with most of the conventional descriptions of PBL, some participants held contrasting views on the importance of the PBL approach in undergraduate medical education. However there was a strong view concerning the importance of facilitator training. More research is needed to understand the process of PBL better.
PMCID: PMC2775736  PMID: 19889217
3.  Evidence of gender bias in True-False-Abstain medical examinations 
There is evidence that males and females differ in their attainment on a variety of assessments in general and in medical education. It has been suggested that the True-False-Abstain (TFA) format with negative marking is biased against females.
Eight years worth of examination data from the first two years of an undergraduate medical curriculum was analysed. 359 courses were evaluated for statistically significant differences between the genders using ANOVA. Logistic regression was used to test if subject area, calendar year or exam format predicted that males or females do better (termed male advantage or female advantage).
Statistically significant differences between the genders were found in 111 (31%) of assessments with females doing better than males in 85 and males better in 26. Female advantage was associated with a particular year (2001), the Personal and Professional Development strand of the curriculum, in course assessment and short answer questions. Male advantage was associated with the anatomy and physiology strand of the curriculum and examinations containing TFA formats, where the largest gender difference was noted. Males were 16.7 times more likely than females to do better on an assessment if it had any questions using the TFA format.
Although a range of statistically significant gender differences was found, they were concentrated in TFA and short answer formats. The largest effect was for TFA formats where males were much more likely to do better than females. The gender bias of TFA assessments in medical education is yet another reason why caution should be exercised in their use.
PMCID: PMC2702355  PMID: 19500414

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