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Year : 2003  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 51-58

What Medical Students Value in a Population Health Tutor: Characteristics for Consideration in Staff Recruitment and Development

Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Sydney, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Lyndal Trevena
37A Booth Street, Balmain, NSW 2041
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Background: Recent moves to integrate aspects of population health into medical curricula have created new staff development challenges for many institutions. Small group teaching in population health is a relatively new initiative, often requiring recruitment of additional staff and considerable training. This analysis identifies the tutor characteristics rated most positively by medical students in a small-group course in population health and discusses their implication for staff recruitment and development. Method: Retrospective evaluation of tutors by students using a self-administered questionnaire. Overall tutor rating was analysed against various tutor characteristics, using univariate logistic regression methods. Optional qualitative comments were summarized by thematic methods and triangulated with findings from the quantitative analysis. Results: Creating a supportive group climate was the tutor attribute most positively evaluated by students (OR=9.62, 95%CI 4.46– 20.83). Perceived interest in teaching (OR=8.93, 95%CI 3.83– 20.83) and the ability to give useful feedback (OR=8.40, 95%CI 4.07– 17.54) were also highly rated by students as valuable qualities in their tutors. Qualitative analysis highlighted the importance of informed comment, good knowledge and expert input from tutors. Conclusion: Whilst a degree of content expertise in population health was desirable in a tutor, its value was secondary to good facilitation skills and an enthusiasm for teaching when student evaluation was considered. Faculties implementing small-group methods of teaching population health should consider facilitation skills and interest in teaching as priorities when recruiting and training staff. As is the case for self-directed student-led learning in basic and clinical sciences, these appear to be more influential than content expertise, from the students' perspective.

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