Evolution of Student Assessment Following Implementation of an Integrated Medical Curriculum: Contribution to Improved Educational Outcomes
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This paper describes the stimuli and rationale for and the nature of assessment changes implemented after embarking on a new student-centered, problem-based learning curriculum. In 1998, the University of Texas Medical Branch implemented the Integrated Medical Curriculum (IMC), a problem-based curriculum with sequential, interdepartmental, clinically relevant basic science courses and a concurrent Practice of Medicine course. The IMC’s aim was to improve educational quality by emphasizing knowledge application over rote memorization, student-directed learning, problem-solving skills development, basic science and clinical concepts integration, early acquisition of clinical skills, and professional teamwork. During the initial years of the IMC, students’ learning outcomes did not improve over those of the former curriculum because, in part, we did not initially modify student assessment (a driving force for student study habits) to align with the new curricular goals and philosophies. We subsequently took several steps to modify our assessment practices in order to improve student learning and understanding. These steps included (1) increasing the number and quality of higher -order exam questions, (2) sequestering examinations, (3) increasing the number of practice exam items in each course, (4) and emphasizing in-depth discussion in problem-based learning sessions by introducing small-group quiz exercises. Following the assessment modifications, our students’ USMLE Step 1 scores and our pass rate for first-time test takers rose from being consistently below the national Step 1 average to above the national average. This improvement has been sustained for the past seven years. We believe that implementing those assessment modifications within the framework of the newly devised student-centered, problem-based curriculum in an interdepartmental environment resulted in a critical mass of “local” changes. The changes, initiated and supported by students, faculty and administration, catalyzed, produced and sustained more “global” changes that improved students’ learning, thus better preparing them for the USMLE Step 1 examination.
KeywordsStudent assessment integrated curriculum educational outcome
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