Student selected components: do students learn what teachers think they teach?

Michael J. Murphy, Rohini De A. Seneviratne, Sean P. McAleer, Olga J. Remers, Margery H. Davis

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    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: It is well recognized that what teachers teach and what students learn may not be the same. This applies to all parts of the undergraduate medical curriculum, but may be especially relevant to student selected components, which vary substantially in their educational content. This has not been studied previously. Aims: To compare perceptions of students and supervisors in relation to learning outcomes addressed by student selected components, and thus to examine differences between what is taught and what is learned. Methods: Supervisors (n = 69) were asked to indicate which of twelve learning outcomes they felt were components of teaching and assessment. Upon completion of each SSC, students were required to complete the same outcomes template as part of their feedback (n = 644). Perceptions were compared in two ways: (1) a colour-coded 'traffic-light' system was used to record agreement/disagreement between students and supervisors of individual SSCs; (2) differences in perception of outcomes across the entire SSC programme were compared using the 2 statistic. Results: (1) The 'traffic-light' system readily identified individual SSCs where significant disagreement existed and which were subject to further scrutiny. (2) More students than supervisors thought that outcome 2 (competent to perform practical procedures) was a component of teaching and assessment (41.8% v 27.5%, 2 = 5.24, p = 0.02), whereas more supervisors than students thought that outcome 6 (competent in communication skills) (97.1% v 82.1%, 2 = 6.91, p = 0.009) and outcome 7 (competent to retrieve and handle information) (100% v 93.7%, 2 = 4.8, p = 0.02) were. Conclusions: Significant disagreement exists about the outcomes addressed by SSCs, suggesting that students do not always learn what teachers think they teach. The use of two complementary approaches allows global and individual comparisons to be drawn and thus provides a powerful tool to address this important issue.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)E175-E179
    Number of pages5
    JournalMedical Teacher
    Issue number9-10
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • Undergraduate medical curriculum
    • Multiinstitutional consensus
    • Education


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