• Vol. 36 No. 9, 713–718
  • 15 September 2007

Can a Flexible Medical Curriculum Promote Student Learning and Satisfaction?



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Introduction: Medical education is trending towards an outcome-based curriculum that prepares medical graduates to excel in a rapidly evolving, team-centred healthcare delivery system. The Mayo Medical School (MMS) has recently redesigned its curriculum to introduce early clinical relevance, optimise course integration, provide flexibility and promote active learning. This study aims to evaluate the role that curricular flexibility plays in students’ perceived learning, satisfaction and performance. Materials and Methods: First-year students completed a 5-point Likert scale survey regarding satisfaction with and perceived learning from various components of the flexible curriculum during 2 different academic blocks. Students’ academic performance was assessed by a National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) Subject Examination after each block. Results: In comparing student-rated satisfaction and perceived learning from didactics versus other curricular components for Block 3 (Pathology and Immunology) and Block 5 (Gross Anatomy and Radiology), students rated didactics higher in all cases in which there was a statistically significant difference in the ratings. There was a statistically significant positive correlation between the amount learned and satisfaction for all curricular components with the exception of Block 5 independent study. During Block 3, only interest in the subject matter correlated positively with the NBME score, while during Block 5, only time spent in class correlated negatively with the NBME score. Conclusions: Although various components of the flexible curriculum do not appear to affect satisfaction and perceived learning, their potential influence on graduate outcomes, in terms of delivering healthcare providers who are patient-centred, creative thinkers and compassionate leaders should not be discounted.

Medical students today are taught in a competitive environment that fosters the acquisition of knowledge and individual responsibility. However, in recent times, the importance of teaching students to give patient-centred care, work in interdisciplinary teams, employ evidence-based practice, apply quality improvement methods and utilise informatics has come to the forefront of discussions on medical education. This shift in the focus of medical education requires curriculum reform.1-4

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