Teaching statistics to medical undergraduates using interactive and participatory sessions

THULASINGAM MAHALAKSHMY, AMOL R DONGRE, GANAPATHY KALAISELVAN

Abstract


Introduction: In India, medical undergraduates think that statistics is difficult
to understand. Often, it is taught just before final assessment examination
using didactic lectures, with little use of medical examples and less focus on
application. Hence, we prepared interactive, participatory sessions for teaching
biostatistics to medical undergraduate.
Methods: The sessions were delivered by a facilitator. It had clearly specified
objectives, teaching learning strategies. A needs assessment was done by
interviewing the students who had undergone traditional biostatistics teaching
methodology. Specific learning objectives for the sessions were finalized
using the Delphi technique and review of University syllabus. Two trained
Community Medicine faculties designed the lesson plans ‘backwards’ from
desired outcome to content, teaching/learning strategies, assessment and
evaluation process (Outcomes-based lesson planning). Forty, third-semester
(Para-clinical phase of the second year) medical undergraduates undertook
these seven teaching sessions. The session followed adult learning principles
and included group discussions, games and reflections. We evaluated the
impact of the sessions using in-depth interviews, retrospective post-then-preself-
assessment and a pre-announced written test.
Results: With traditional statistics teaching methodology, students perceived
it as a standalone subject and were not interested in statistics. Students
who underwent the sessions commented that the sessions were enjoyable,
interesting, and participatory and more than %90 of them felt they were
engaged throughout the session. They also narrated various instances where
they could apply the biostatistics learning. In the post-then-pre-assessment
median post-session scores for all the objectives were significantly higher
(p <0.050).
Conclusion: Use of interactive, participatory sessions for teaching biostatistics
to medical undergraduates resulted in a positive reaction and better learning.
They also applied these concepts while reading textbooks, listening to lectures
and during clinical postings.

Keywords: Biostatistics, Teaching, Medical undergraduates


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