Background: Student selected components (SSCs) are staff-designed modules selected by students from a menu of options provided separately from the 'core' curriculum. Students completing these do not always learn what teachers think they teach. Some medical schools also allow students to design their own modules. It is not known whether greater student input into planning of modules is associated with closer alignment of planned and learnt outcomes.
Aims: To compare student perception of learning outcomes addressed by student-designed ('self-proposed') SSCs, before and after completion, using the 'Dundee learning outcomes' template that we apply to all components of the undergraduate curriculum.
Methods: Students were required at the time of self-proposal, and subsequently as part of feedback on completed modules, to indicate which of twelve learning outcomes they felt were addressed by their self-proposed SSC. The chi(2) test was used to compare student perceptions of learning outcomes before and after completion.
Results: More students thought that learning outcome 10 (appropriate decision making skills, clinical reasoning and judgement) was addressed after completion than before (96.3% versus 90.0%, chi(2) 4.99, p = 0.02); for all other learning outcomes global perceptions were not significantly different after completion. Individual changes in perception ranged from 2.1% for outcome 12 (aptitude for personal development) to 19.6% for outcome 2 (competent to perform practical procedures).
Conclusion: Greater student input into planning of modules is associated with closer alignment of planned and learnt outcomes. Our findings provide further evidence for the benefit of student-directed learning.