Research Day



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INTRODUCTION: One essential skill of a medical professional is the ability to collaborate in a team, thus medical students should have opportunities and feedback to develop this skill. Recently, there has been a growing interest in utilizing peer assessment to provide feedback for students engaged in group activities, due to evidence that it encourages learning, engagement, participation and success. Peer evaluation provides an environment to broaden and deepen students’ reflection of their learning by comparing their own involvement to that of their colleagues. Medical students at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed), participate in a service-learning curricular component, focused on creating collaborative student teams that develop service projects supporting the health of our community members.

OBJECTIVE: Evaluation of the utility of peer assessment for medical education has been largely limited to clerkships, professionalism and team based learning activities. In this study we examined the perspectives of students on components essential for effective team collaboration in service-learning projects, to determine if student perspectives of involvement, both of themselves and their peers, correlate with team success.

METHODS: Medical students participating in service-learning component (Active Citizenship) of the WMed curriculum from the 2019 and 2020 classes were surveyed via REDCap to evaluate their perception on effectiveness of: their team collaboration, high and low performing team members and themselves. Survey questions examined skills essential for team collaboration including communication, organization, motivation, critical thinking, collaboration, and technical knowledge.

RESULTS: Of the 131 students eligible for participation in the study, 96 responded (73.4%). When asked to rank group collaboration overall, similar numbers of students responded to each collaboration category: average (n=32), above average (n=33) or excellent (n=31). Among students who reported average group collaboration, a majority (56%), felt their individual effort was higher than peers, suggesting that they performed the bulk of the group work. In contrast, in groups with excellent collaboration, 64% of those students felt the team members contributed equally. Team members who were perceived as low-level contributors were more often ranked as unsatisfactory among groups with average level collaboration perception. Additionally, student perception of highly contributing team members collaboration skills increased with perception of overall team collaboration level. Finally, students ranked their own collaboration skills higher when they perceived their overall team collaboration as excellent.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggests that student perception of team success depends largely on the level of contribution they perceive from team members; teams with members that contribute equally have better perceived collaboration. Literature suggests that to improve collaboration within teams, emphasis should be placed on positive leadership, communication strategies, training, and resources. Further research will evaluate changes in collaboration over time following provision of peer-feedback, and education regarding skills that can improve team success.

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