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Student s perception towards co curriculum activities in the school

Roles of student organizers and faculty in the research course. Organized the Research Day, a university-wide activity, in which students from the course were given priority to present their work Worked closely with students to ensure healthy mentor-mentee relationships throughout the year and progress on the different research projects Open in a separate window The course educational tools varied between didactic lectures, round table discussions, mock presentations, and hands-on tutorials.

Moreover, students were offered lists of recommended readings, useful links, mentors and a database of ongoing research projects at AUB. At the end of the course, students presented abstracts of their research proposals in the Research Day, a yearly activity during which students and residents present their research projects.

We used an interview-guide consisting of 7 open-ended questions about previous experience in research, perceptions towards research prior to the course and afterwards, strengths and limitations of the course, and the effect of this experience on the choice of future career path S1 Appendix. The focus group discussions were conducted in English by a hired female facilitator who holds a Masters in Public Health MPHand who is experienced in qualitative research.

The facilitator introduced her background to participants during the focus groups as she was previously not involved with the students in the course. Each focus group took place in a conference room at AUB and lasted for one hour.

Only the facilitator and the participants were present. The former took field notes during the focus groups.

  • Evidence reveals that students who participate in research during medical school publish significantly more articles during their postgraduate training [ 5 , 9 ];
  • They were seen as very helpful in guiding their peers to appropriate mentors, and were available for advice and feedback on regular basis;
  • This is best reflected by the following quote of a first year student describing how she could replicate the research process in the Social and Preventive Medicine course, which she took after the research course:

Student s perception towards co curriculum activities in the school discussions were taped, transcribed in verbatim, coded and analysed by the facilitator using inductive thematic analysis. The findings were not shared with the participants for feedback. Results Of the 26 medical students who participated in the course, 21 12 females consented to the focus group discussions. The majority of participants were in preclinical years 13 in first year, 2 in second yearwith only 6 in clinical third year.

For the sake of this paper, participants were assigned random numbers presented along with their corresponding medical year. These included the following: Research is difficult for students Most participants were not exposed to research prior to the course with only two having had modest laboratory research experiences.

Students perceived conducting research to be difficult at their level since they lacked the necessary clinical experience needed to generate research questions.

First year 9 Yet, students were driven by their curiosity to join this course to learn more about the research process, starting with their own research questions. They realized that research and medicine are complementary to each other, and that research involves other disciplines as well like Public Health and Basic Sciences. Moreover, their previous perceptions that research would be difficult for students changed, and they felt it became possible after this course, as well as being relevant to clinical practice: Enhancement of perceived research skills, critical thinking and writing skills The majority of participants elaborated on the research skills they gained from the course, and how they could systematically reproduce the stepwise process of designing a research project.

They realized the importance of phrasing a well-refined research question and conducting an effective literature search. They valued the fact that their analyses of research papers became more critical, and that the course improved their writing skills. This is best reflected by the following quote of a first year student describing how she could replicate the research process in the Social and Preventive Medicine course, which she took after the research course: I always skipped the methods section.


Whether lecturers in sessions or mentors on projects, faculty participation was valued by students for the lifetime experiences they provided. The course provided the opportunity for students to build personal connections with faculty that otherwise would not have been easily established.

Whereas some students had supportive mentors, others had little guidance from their mentors, or had a hard time finding a mentor who shared the same research interest. They were very useful because the professors got a chance to tell us more about their subjective views of research: I wrote the entire proposal alone.

Second year 1 It is interesting to note that the course alerted the students to the importance of discussing authorship rights and work expectations with their mentors when planning the research project, as well as the duties and expectations from each party.

Our District

The value of peer organization of the course Participants valued the fact that the course was organized by their peers. Participation in the course was motivated by personal interest and self-fulfillment with no pressure for grade.

In that context, student organizers were perceived by their peers to be facilitators of learning. They were seen as very helpful in guiding their peers to appropriate mentors, and were available for advice and feedback on regular basis: Additional course achievements Most students felt that their expectations from the course were met as they succeeded in developing their research proposals, and hence bridged the gap in their medical curriculum regarding research education.

However, this journey was not without difficulties. Such deadlines were viewed by some students as stressful, leaving them with little time to change research questions if they had to, or to accomplish assignments by the deadline.

Yet, most students reported that having deadlines prompted them to work more efficiently and hence enhanced their time management skills. Moreover, the deadlines helped them succeed in reaching the Research Day with research abstracts that summarize their questions and methods of inquiry, and are suitable for presentation in that forum: Second year 2 Course limitations Students reported several course limitations and suggested improvements for future courses.

These included difficulty finding a mentor, setting tight deadlines, the didactic nature of some sessions, and the heterogeneity of participants in terms of background knowledge and clinical experience.

Preclinical students for example found it difficult to come up with research ideas since they lacked the clinical exposure that will help them find research questions, as compared to students in clinical years. These limitations prompted students to suggest improvements such as enhancing the engagement of mentors, replacing didactic lectures with interactive sessions, and dividing participants into small groups with diverse backgrounds thus allowing students to teach each other: Third year 3 The generated themes were very much in line with the feedback previously obtained from students at the end of each session during the course.

Suggested improvements in the evaluations from that session included the need for hands-on exercises and work in small groups in order to better grasp the explained concepts.

Similarly, two aspects of the course sessions that students frequently valued were the feedback they received individually on their on-going projects, the active interaction with the moderators, and the practical skills they were learning.

All five students who served as course co-coordinators from 2008 through 2012 pursued further research training 2 postdoctoral, 2 PhD, 1 MPH after graduation from medical school. Discussion Research education and training during medical school is essential to identify physicians-in-training who may pursue a career in academic medicine later.

Evidence reveals that students who participate in research during medical school publish significantly more articles during their postgraduate training [ 59 ]. Our data supports that research education and training is possible in the early years of medical school.

These findings are in line with the Theory of Reasoned Action and Theory of Planned behaviour [ 10 ]. Interestingly, in a mixed method study on required research electives at UK medical schools, students statements on the benefits of their developed research skills were very similar to ones reported by our participants: Most of these barriers were cited by our participants as the major barriers that affected their research experience during the course negatively.

To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first one to shed light on the credibility of peer-assisted learning of research methodology in medical school. The value of peer-assisted learning lies mostly in it being done out of personal interest, a need for self-fulfilment, and being free from pressure for grade. Peer-assisted learning allows participating students to receive education tailored to their cognitive level thus enhancing their motivation to learn. Furthermore, it prepares organizing students for their future roles as physician educators [ 1314 ].

In some hospitals, the success of such activities led to their integration in the official curriculum. Moreover, the partnership between faculty and students in such programmes was reported to positively impact the student-faculty relationship, thus enhancing the learning experience of students [ 15 ]. We believe that the peer-assisted learning aspect of our course strongly contributed to its success.

Such analysis, however, was beyond the scope of our study. We chose to conduct focus group discussions because qualitative methods are best suited to capture the experiences, perceptions and attitudes of students. In this study, we used purposive sampling and invited all students who participated in the research course to enrol in the focus group discussions, in order to capture most of their experiences and perceptions.

Only five students declined as they were outside the country when the study was being conducted. Although the major themes were recurring in all transcripts, we cannot assume that saturation was reached.

To ensure validity of findings, three of the authors reviewed all transcripts, major and minor themes, and found them to be consistent with those of the facilitator who conducted the analysis. Our study has some limitations.

Because of its qualitative nature, our findings may not be generalizable to other medical schools since all participants belonged to the same institution. Given the limited number of participants in the course, one may make a case that the receptivity to the course might differ if it was implemented to a larger group within the same institution.

However, the purpose of the focus group discussions is to explore the depth of the findings rather than their breadth, or generalizability. Another limitation is the fact that attitudinal change may not translate into behavioural change later. Also, since the participants were self-selected, it may be argued that the success of the course could be due to highly motivated students who were eager to have research training early in their medical education.

Despite these limitations, we believe that this extra-curricular activity can be a good model to replicate by other schools with similar educational needs.

Conclusions A peer-organized extracurricular research methodology course may be a useful resource to train medical students in research skills, and can fill gaps in medical curricula. Moreover, having research courses as core curriculum is essential for identifying future clinician researchers. Further studies in similar settings are needed to confirm our findings.

Supporting Information Focus group discussion interview guide.