MANUSCRIPT: Repeated testing improves achievement in a blended learning approach for risk competence training of medical students: results of a randomized controlled trial.
Adequate estimation and communication of risks is a critical competence of physicians. Due to an evident lack of these competences, effective training addressing risk competence during medical education is needed. Test-enhanced learning has been shown to produce marked effects on achievements. This study aimed to investigate the effect of repeated tests implemented on top of a blended learning program for risk competence.
We introduced a blended-learning curriculum for risk estimation and risk communication based on a set of operationalized learning objectives, which was integrated into a mandatory course “Evidence-based Medicine” for third-year students. A randomized controlled trial addressed the effect of repeated testing on achievement as measured by the students’ pre- and post-training score (nine multiple-choice items). Basic numeracy and statistical literacy were assessed at baseline. Analysis relied on descriptive statistics (histograms, box plots, scatter plots, and summary of descriptive measures), bootstrapped confidence intervals, analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), and effect sizes (Cohen’s d, r) based on adjusted means and standard deviations.
All of the 114 students enrolled in the course consented to take part in the study and were assigned to either the intervention or control group (both: n = 57) by balanced randomization. Five participants dropped out due to non-compliance (control: 4, intervention: 1). Both groups profited considerably from the program in general (Cohen’s d for overall pre vs. post scores: 2.61). Repeated testing yielded an additional positive effect: while the covariate (baseline score) exhibits no relation to the post-intervention score, F(1, 106) = 2.88, p > .05, there was a significant effect of the intervention (repeated tests scenario) on learning achievement, F(1106) = 12.72, p < .05, d = .94, r = .42 (95% CI: [.26, .57]). However, in the subgroup of participants with a high initial numeracy score no similar effect could be observed.
Dedicated training can improve relevant components of risk competence of medical students. An already promising overall effect of the blended learning approach can be improved significantly by implementing a test-enhanced learning design, namely repeated testing. As students with a high initial numeracy score did not profit equally from repeated testing, target-group specific opt-out may be offered.