Medical Students’ Perception and Perceived Value of Peer Learning in Undergraduate Clinical Skill Development and Assessment: Mixed Methods Study
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Background: The effectiveness of peer learning in clinical skill development is well recognized and researched, given the many benefits gained such as enhanced learning, alleviation of the burden on faculty, and early development of teaching skills for future doctors. However, little is known in terms of its effectiveness as an assessment tool and the extent to which peer assessment can be relied upon in the absence of faculty support. Objective: This study was conducted to assess medical students’ perception toward peer learning, which is based on self-regulated learning as a tool of assessment, and to compare peer evaluation with faculty evaluation of clinical skill performance. Methods: A cohort of 36 third-year medical students were exposed to peer learning (same-level) in clinical skills education for 3 months. A convergent mixed methods approach was adapted to collect data from 3 sources, namely, students’ perception of peer learning, performance scores, and reflective observational analysis. A 5-point Likert-type scale was used to assess students’ (n=28) perception on the value of peer learning. The students were asked to assess their peers by using a preset checklist on clinical skill performance, and scores were compared to faculty assessment scores. Reflective observational data were collected from observing video recordings of some of the peer learning sessions. The findings from all 3 sources were integrated using joint display analysis. Results: Out of 28 students, 25 students completed the survey and 20 students perceived peer learning as valuable in clinical skills education. The mean score of peer assessment was higher than that of faculty assessment. There was a significant difference in student performance between supervised teaching and peer learning groups (P=.003). Most students focused on the mastery of skill with little attention to the technique’s quality. Further, students were unable to appreciate the relevance of the potential clinical findings of physical examination. Conclusions: Peer learning in clinical skills education, based on self-regulated learning, empowers students to develop a more responsible approach toward their education. However, peer assessment is insufficient to evaluate clinical skill performance in the absence of faculty support. Therefore, we recommend that peer learning activities be preceded by supervised faculty-taught sessions.