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Good Intentions: A Novel Peer-to-Peer Tutoring Program Designed to Reduce Block Failure Rates

Christian Mateo Garcia MSIII, UNM SOM Amanda Bustamante-Provencio MSIII, UNM SOM Justin-James Roesch M.D., FACP Department of Hospital Medicine, UNM SOM

Introduction: The cost of failure and repeating a single year of medical education can be upwards of $100,000. There can be additional psychological ramifications for students, and ancillary costs incurred by the institution. Peer-to-peer tutoring is a highly effective means of augmenting learning and possibly preventing course failure in undergraduate medical education. Peer-to-peer learning can reduce perceived power differentials and create a lower-stakes learning environment, while augmenting learning of tutor and tutee. Here we review pilot data from an all-volunteer, novel peer-to-peer tutoring program created to reduce block failure rates at a state medical school.

Methods: A total of 31 students were tutees, 10 from the class of 2018 (MS2018), 15 from the class of 2019 (MS2019) and 6 from the class of 2020 (MS2020). Students required assistance or remediation in multiple different blocks across the curriculum. New peer-to-peer pairings were made for every course. Volunteer tutors were verified to be achieving 85% or higher in their tutoring course and self-identified following email solicitation. Tutees self-identified interest in the program and then self-selected tutors by picking their top three choices, with the majority of students receiving their first choice. Once selected, the pair was connected via email and met at a time and duration that best suited their schedules. Tutees studying over the winter holiday break for remedial examinations were paired with two to three tutors to ensure tutor availability.

Results: Neuroscience MS 2019, had 4 /4 tutees pass, 100%. Cardiovascular/Pulmonary/Renal MS 2019 had 5/6 pass, 83%. MS2018 and MS 2019 Infectious Disease had 5/6 and 1/1 pass, or 83% and 100% respectively. GINME and ID remediation exams MS2018 had 3/4 pass, 75%. HSR remediation exam for MS2019 had 1/1 or 100% pass rate. The total program pass rate (for students originally identified as being at risk of failing) is 82.8% to date.

Discussion: We consider these rates to be highly successful based on the minimal costs and the high success rate. The program was run without monetary support from the SOM, and was felt to enhance the learning of both tutors and tutees. While data is limited by a small N value in terms of success rates, we believe this pilot model could serve as a highly effective prophylactic remediation effort for students to avoid the effects of having to remediate a block or year, as well as incur the financial and psychosocial impact of block failure. We hope that based on the initial success of this program, this program might be more widely adopted across the school of medicine curriculum as a means of promoting self-efficacy in learning and improving block passage rates during the first two years of medical school.

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Back to the July 2017 issue of ACP IMpact