Does self-modulated learning vs. algorithm-regulated learning of dermatology morphology affect learning efficiency of medical students?


Background: Deliberate practice is an important method of skill acquisition and is under-utilized in dermatology training. We delivered a dermatologic morphology training module with immediate feedback for first year medical students. Our goal was to determine whether there are differences in accuracy and learning efficiency between self-regulated and algorithm-regulated groups.

Methods: First year medical students at the University of Calgary completed a dermatologic morphology module. We randomly assigned them to either a self-regulated arm (students removed cases from the practice pool at their discretion) or an algorithm-regulated arm (an algorithm determined when a case would be removed). We then administered a pre-survey, pre-test, post-test, and post-survey. Data collected included mean diagnostic accuracy of the practice sessions and tests, and the time spent practicing. The surveys assessed demographic data and student satisfaction.

Results: Students in the algorithm-regulated arm completed more cases than the self-regulated arm (52.9 vs. 29.3, p<0.001) and spent twice as much time completing the module than the self-regulated participants (34.3 vs. 17.0 min., p<0.001). Mean scores were equivalent between the algorithm- and self-regulated groups for the pre-test (63% vs. 66%, n = 54) and post-test (90% vs. 86%, n = 10), respectively. Both arms demonstrated statistically significant improvement in the post-test.

Conclusion: Both the self-regulated and algorithm-regulated arms improved at post-test. Students spent significantly less time practicing in the self-directed arm, suggesting it was more efficient.

Brief Reports