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Incorporating Active Learning Into A Traditional Graduate Medical Physics Course

J Burmeister

J Burmeister1*, (1) Wayne State Univ School of Medicine / Karmanos Cancer Center, Detroit, MI


MO-E-18C-3 Monday 1:45PM - 3:45PM Room: 18C

Purpose: To improve the ability of graduate students to learn medical physics concepts through the incorporation of active learning techniques.

Methods: A traditional lecture-based radiological physics course was modified such that: (1) traditional (two-hour) lectures were provided online for students to watch prior to class, (2) a student was chosen randomly at the start of each class to give a two minute synopsis of the material and its relevance (two-minute drill), (3) lectures were significantly abbreviated and remaining classroom time used for group problem solving, and (4) videos of the abbreviated lectures were made available online for review. In the transition year, students were surveyed about the perceived effects of these changes on learning. Student performance was evaluated for 3 years prior to and 4 years after modification.

Results: The survey tool used a five point scale from 1=Not True to 5=Very True. While nearly all students reviewed written materials prior to class (4.3±0.9), a minority watched the lectures (2.1±1.5). A larger number watched the abbreviated lectures for further clarification (3.6±1.6) and found it helpful in learning the content (4.2±1.0). Most felt that the two-minute drill helped them get more out of the lecture (3.9±0.8) and the problem solving contributed to their understanding of the content (4.1±0.8). However, no significant improvement in exam scores resulted from the modifications (mean scores well within 1 SD during study period).

Conclusion: Students felt that active learning techniques improved their ability to learn the material in what is considered the most difficult course in the program. They valued the ability to review the abbreviated class lecture more than the opportunity to watch traditional lectures prior to class. While no significant changes in student performance were observed, aptitude variations across the student cohorts make it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of active learning.

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