Struggling students are less likely to seek academic assistance and may start at a lower level of comfort with asking for help. Peer and near-peer tutoring programs may reduce the stigma of asking for academic assistance, but studies of the efficacy of such interventions are lacking in the literature. A near-peer tutoring elective called “Upperclassmen Tutoring Underclassmen in Basic sciences And Test-taking” (UpTUBAT) was developed to provide academic support to struggling first and second year medical students. Fourth year medical students were trained in effective tutoring practices through online modules, activities, standardized learner experiences, and faculty-led discussions. Tutors then designed and hosted weekly tutoring sessions. An average of 31 learners attended each session, and 188 total medical students received tutoring. The effects of the tutoring sessions were assessed through pre- and post-tutoring surveys and learner grades. Positive tutoring session themes included identification of relevant information, active engagement, concept clarification, opportunity for review, and diversity of approaches. Attendance of more than half of the sessions increased learners’ self-reported comfort (on a 5-point Likert scale) with asking for help from an upperclassman (4.5 versus 3.2, p = 0.01) or from a professor (4.3 versus 3.1, p = 0.01). More students who were struggling sought tutoring through these sessions, and this intervention helped to maintain learner grades at the same level as the students not receiving tutoring. This study establishes an effective method of training tutors to host large group tutorials in the basic sciences which can lead to development of a cohesive learning community across medical school classes. Near-peer tutoring may be an effective approach to improve learner comfort with seeking academic assistance in the medical school setting.
Undergraduate medical education Teaching methods Academic support Large group tutorials Basic science
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Sammaraiee Y, Mistry R, Lim J, Wittner L, Deepak S, Lim G. Peer-assisted learning: filling the gaps in basic science education for preclinical medical students. Adv Physiol Educ. 2016;40(3):297–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar