Introduction: As medical education becomes more decentralised, and greater use is made of rural clinical schools and other dispersed sites, attention is being paid to the quality of the learning experiences across these sites. This article explores this issue by analysing the performance data of 4 cohorts of students in a dispersed clinical school model across 4 sites. The study is set in a newly established medical school in a regional area with a model of dispersed education, using data from the second to fifth cohorts to graduate from this school. Methods: Summative assessment results of 4 graduating cohorts were examined over the final 2 years of the course. Two analyses were conducted: an analysis of variance of mean scores in both years across the 4 sites; and an analysis of the effect of moving to different clinical schools on the students' rank order of performance by use of the Kruskal-Wallis test. Results: Analysis revealed no significant difference in the mean scores of the students studying at each site, and no significant differences overall in the median ranking across the years. Some small changes in the relative ranking of students were noticed, and workplace-based assessment scores in the final year were higher than the examination-based scores in the previous year. Conclusions: The choice of clinical school site for the final 2 years of an undergraduate rural medical school appears to have no effect on mean assessment scores and only a minor effect on the rank order of student scores. Workplace-based assessment produces higher scores but also has little effect on student rank order. Further studies are necessary to replicate these findings in other settings and demonstrate that student learning experiences in rural sites, while popular with students, translate into required learning outcomes, as measured by summative assessments.
|Journal||Rural and Remote Health|
|Publication status||Published - Jan 2011|