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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Undergraduate technical skills training guided by student tutors – Analysis of tutors' attitudes, tutees' acceptance and learning progress in an innovative teaching model

Peter Weyrich1*, Markus Schrauth3, Bernd Kraus2, Daniel Habermehl1, Nicolai Netzhammer1, Stephan Zipfel3, Jana Jünger2, Reimer Riessen4 and Christoph Nikendei2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine IV (Diabetes, Endocrinology, Angiology, Nephrology and Clinical Chemistry), University Hospital of Tübingen, Germany

2 Department of Internal Medicine II (General Internal and Psychosomatic Medicine), University Hospital of Heidelberg, Germany

3 Department of Internal Medicine VI (Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy), University Hospital of Tübingen, Germany

4 Department of Internal Medicine (Interdisciplinary Intensive Care Unit), University Hospital of Tübingen, Germany

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BMC Medical Education 2008, 8:18  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-8-18

Published: 9 April 2008

Abstract

Background

Skills labs provide a sheltered learning environment. As close supervision and individual feedback were proven to be important in ensuring effective skills training, we implemented a cross-year peer tutor system in our skills lab of internal medicine that allowed intense training sessions with small learning groups (3–4 students) taught by one student tutor.

Methods

The expectations, experiences and criticisms of peer tutors regarding the tutor system for undergraduate skills lab training were investigated in the context of a focus group. In addition, tutees' acceptance of this learning model and of their student tutors was evaluated by means of a pre/post web-based survey.

Results

14 voluntary senior students were intensely prepared by consultants for their peer tutor activity. 127 students participated in the project, 66.9% of which responded to the web-based survey (23 topics with help of 6-point Likert scale + free comments). Acceptance was very high (5.69 ± 0.07, mean ± SEM), and self-confidence ratings increased significantly after the intervention for each of the trained skills (average 1.96 ± 0.08, all p < 0.002). Tutors received high global ratings (5.50 ± 0.07) and very positive anonymous individual feedback from participants. 82% of tutees considered the peer teaching model to be sufficient, and a mere 1% expressed the wish for skills training to be provided by faculty staff only. Focus group analyses with tutors revealed 18 different topics, including profit in personal knowledge and personal satisfaction through teaching activities. The ratio of 1:4 tutor/tutees was regarded to be very beneficial for effective feedback, and the personalized online evaluation by tutees to be a strong motivator and helpful for further improvements. The tutors ascribed great importance to the continuous availability of a contact doctor in case of uncertainties.

Conclusion

This study demonstrates that peer teaching in undergraduate technical clinical skills training is feasible and widely accepted among tutees, provided that the tutors receive sufficient training and supervision.