Prompting Medical Students to Self-Assess their Learning Needs during the Ageing and Health Module: A Mixed Methods Study

Grace Kennedy , Jennifer Nicola M Rea, Irene Maeve Rea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
97 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding our learning needs is fundamental for safe, effective and knowledge-based medical practice and facilitates life-long learning. A mixed methods study investigated fourth-year medical students’ self-perceived understanding of their learning needs using 1] a visual scale, before and after a four-week module in Ageing and Health (A&H) and 2] through focus group discussions. During 2013–14 academic year, all students (252) were invited to use a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) tool to self-assess their learning needs that were linked to Ageing and Health curriculum learning outcomes. Assenting students (197 at pre-self-assessment, 201 at post-assessment) returned anonymous Visual Analogue Scales, self-assessing history-taking skills, examination skills, knowledge of medication use, co-morbidity, nutritional and swallowing assessment responses, before and after the A&H module. Three student focus groups explored whether completion of the VAS self-assessment had prompted improved self-awareness of their learning needs. The VAS responses increased for each curriculum domain with significant differences between the pre-and post responses – for the student-year-group. Nutritional and swallowing knowledge showed the greatest improvement from a self-assessed low baseline at entry. Focus-group students generally viewed the VAS tool positively, and as an aid for prompting consideration of current and future clinical practice. Some students recognised that ‘a need to be ready-for-work’ focused engaged learning; others demonstrated self-regulated learning through self-motivation and an action plan. The Visual Analogue Scale quantitative responses showed increased student-self-perceived learning for each curriculum domain at fourth-year completion of the A&H module, suggesting that prompting self-assessment had increased students’ knowledge and skills. Focus group students saw the VAS tool as useful for prompting awareness of their current and future learning needs. Additional educational strategies should be explored to enable all students to self-reflect and engage effectively on their learning needs, to gain the skills for the maintenance of professional medical competence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1579558
Number of pages12
JournalMedical Education Online
Issue number1
Early online date02 May 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 02 May 2019


  • Medical students
  • Self-assessment
  • Learning outcomes
  • Quantitative and Qualitative methods
  • Ageing and Health Module

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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