ABSTRACT: How can we improve teaching of ECG interpretation skills? Findings from a prospective randomised trial.
There is an ongoing debate on how ECG interpretation should be taught during undergraduate medical training. This study addressed the impact of teaching format, examination consequences and student motivation on skills retention.
A total of 493 fourth-year medical students participated in a six-group, partially randomised trial. Students received three levels of teaching intensity: self-directed learning (2 groups), lectures (2 groups) or small-group peer-teaching (2 groups). On each level of teaching intensity, end-of-course written examinations (ECG exit exam) were summative in one group and formative in the other. Learning outcome was assessed in a retention test two months later.
Retention test scores were predicted by summative assessments (adjusted beta 4.08; 95% CI 1.39-6.78) but not by the type of teaching. Overall performance levels and motivation did not predict performance decrease or skills retention.
Summative assessments increase medium-term retention of ECG interpretation skills, irrespective of instructional format.