Information-literacy skills development in undergraduate medical education: a comparison study of the impact of training methodologies on learning outcomes
Schilling, Katherine Lynne
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This randomized, blinded study addressed whether and to what extent the methodology by which information-literacy skills instruction occurred impacted on first-year medical students' information-retrieval skills, perceptions regarding the use of library and information resources, and performance outcomes on a MEDLINE searching exercise. A group of 128 first year medical students enrolled in a problem-based learning (PBL) course participated in information-retrieval skills training. Students were randomly assigned to one of two experimental groups. The control group participated in a traditional, instructor-lead information-retrieval training session, while the intervention group participated in identical instruction via a Web-based tutorial. Data were gathered from several sources including: a) a pre-instruction survey and pre-test, b) the evaluation of students' MEDLINE searches, c) a post-instruction survey and post-test, and d) a three month follow-up survey measuring students' use of information resources in support of PBL activities during the previous semester. MEDLINE searching assignments directly linked to the PBL patient cases were electronically captured, blinded, and independently evaluated and scored by three reference librarians, allowing for a comprehensive analysis of students' searching skills. Results provided a picture of students' MEDLINE skills, information usage behaviors, and attitudes. Statistical tests showed that intervention group students scored an average of 2.84 out of a possible 4 points on the MEDLINE exercise, and control group students scored an average of 2.60 (P = .065). Follow-up data collected three months post-training examined students' MEDLINE searching behaviors. Results indicated that 55% of control group students performed six or more MEDLINE searches during the semester, while 38% of intervention group students used MEDLINE six or more times. The corresponding P value of .053 approached statistical significance. Librarians can use this information in designing and implementing more effective learning modules for both on-campus and off-campus learners, appropriately incorporating the use of Web-based tutorials into existing educational programs, and expanding programming opportunities to include the integrated use of Web-based and traditional learning modules.
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