Ian Jones (2010). THE BENEFITS OF PEER TUTORING IN A GRADUATE ENTRY MEDICAL PROGRAM PhD Thesis, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ian Jones
School, Centre or Institute School of Medicine
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-09-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Louise Young
Professor Ken Donald
Total pages 269
Total colour pages 6
Total black and white pages 263
Subjects 11 Medical and Health Sciences
Abstract/Summary ABSTRACT Helping students learn is faculty’s raison d’etre. There are many ways to achieve this aim including the increasingly popular method of peer tutoring where a social and situational model of learning is championed. This study used such a model in the Success Promotion Program (SPP) and was compared with three “academic knowledge” peer tutoring programs, the Supplemental Instructional Project (Hurley et al, 2003), Peer Assisted Study Sessions (Playford, Miller & Kelly, 2002) and Supplemental Instruction (Blanc, DeBuhr & Martin, 1983), rather than “clinical skill based” peer tutoring programs. SPP assessed the effect of peer tutoring on students in the Year Two MBBS Program and their peer tutors recruited from the Year Three MBBS Program at The University of Queensland during 2005. Comparisons were made between the perceived study characteristics and interpersonal connections for those students and tutors who participated in SPP and a control group who did not participate in SPP. The aim was to determine if there were differences between these groups and if participation changed participants’ end of year summative assessment cohort ranking compared with their previous performance in the medical course. SPP promoted collaborative learning and engaged participants in valued learning experiences, encouraged constructive discussion, guided participants to helpful references and assisted them to control their own learning, all in a non-threatening environment. Peer tutors were able to pass on their experiences of learning in the MBBS Program. Students appreciated peer tutors’ ability to teach at an appropriate level and both tutor and students reported benefiting from this co-operative and symbiotic relationship. Combinations of quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used, including Approaches to Learning Inventory, a modified Grasha-Ichiyama Psychological Size and Distance Scale, and structured and free response questionnaires. Both students and tutors completed these questionnaires during the study. At the beginning of Year Two of the MBBS Program, student study characteristics were similar and in accord with a deep approach to learning. Neither gender, nor number of SPP sessions attended by students, changed their study characteristics. Overall, it was not possible to show significant differences in study characteristics between participating and control students. This occurred because each group had passed the same selection process, had similar levels of academic performance and used similar study methods. However, where it was possible to compare student study characteristics at the beginning and end of the year, it was found that students moved away from a deep to a surface approach to learning as examinations approached. Students’ interpersonal connections with tutors did not influence their end of year academic ranking. Benefits from participation in the Success Promotion Program (SPP) were revealed by those students who attended ten or more sessions. They demonstrated a need for relevant information, an understanding of core material and discovering where this core material fitted into clinical practice. This group of students enjoyed working cooperatively with their peers, sharing information and resources, and not being left completely to their own devices to master the MBBS Program. All these needs were met by SPP, plus they increased their academic ranking at the end of year more than those who attended fewer or no SPP sessions. In addition, students who participated in SPP had lower failure rates in the end of year examinations than non participants. Tutors favoured a deep approach to learning, put much effort into their studies and monitored how they studied. They did not alter these learning behaviours during the study. Tutors rated their expertise higher against SPP students and increased these ratings as the year progressed. Interpersonal connections did not influence tutor academic outcomes, nor whether they were rated by students as outstanding tutors. High academic rank in Year Two did not distinguish them as volunteers for peer tutoring the following year. The Success Promotion Program (SPP) was compared with three “academic knowledge” peer-tutoring programs and revealed similarities of program aims, but differences between the academic levels of participating students, tutor selection, range of subjects taught, and program duration. The academic level of SPP students and tutors was more advanced than the three comparator peer tutoring programs; tutor selection was not confined to “A-grade” volunteers; the number of academic subjects tutored at any one time was high, and spanned the academic year. Study positives far exceeded negatives and participants reported how learning was enriched by peer tutoring. The study demonstrated the impact and relevance of social aspects of teaching and learning. These attributes are predicted to be of benefit for these students throughout their medical careers. SPP has made a contribution to understanding how students and tutors learn and develop their self directed learning behaviours. However, the MBBS Program assessment procedures do not measure which learning behaviours students use, and was considered one reason why it was not possible to demonstrate a link between learning behaviour and examination outcome. Seeing SPP participants taking new opportunities to learn and then reap the rewards of their efforts by passing their summative assessments was pleasing. At the time of writing these students and tutors are now qualified doctors. Here they continue to seek and understand new knowledge, employing skills that they learnt at Medical School and during the Success Promotion Program. Their future is bright, and their quest for knowledge continues.
Keyword Peer-tutoring, peer-assisted learning, collaborative learning, metacognition, medical students, study characteristics, interpersonal connections, benefits, academic outcome.
Additional Notes Colour pages 87, 99, 100, 130, 134,161.

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Created: Mon, 15 Nov 2010, 19:51:40 EST by Prof Ian Jones on behalf of Library - Information Access Service