1. Presentation Title:
Teaching Medical Biochemistry: Challenges, both old and new.
2. Introduction / Background:
Biochemistry is widely perceived as a difficult and daunting subject area, both by medical students and science students in general. In our medical curriculum, biochemistry is delivered in an integrated and clinically-focussed manner in Phase 1, which constitutes the first 1½ years of the 4 year graduate entry MBBS course. This approach adds greater interest and clinical relevance to the study of biochemistry compared to some of the more traditional, discipline-based approaches, but continues to present challenges in terms of student success and engagement in this subject.
3. Methods of Research / Description of activity:
Overall student results in the integrated assessments at the end of Year 1 and end of Phase 1 were compared with the same students’ results in those assessment items identified as examining biochemistry (including genetics). All students undertaking Phase 1 from 2007 – 2010 were included (n=325 end of Year; n=316 end of Phase). A subset of students with undergraduate biochemistry knowledge from the University of Wollongong (n=67) was also compared.
4. Results of Research / Evaluation of activity:
Students showed, on average, a 9% poorer performance in biochemistry between their end of Year 1 and end of Phase 1 exams. Surprisingly, this was even more pronounced in the group of students with prior knowledge of undergraduate biochemistry (n=67) whose marks decreased by 11%.
5. Conclusions / Issues for discussion:
Factors influencing this apparent decline in student achievement in biochemistry during Phase 1 are likely to be many and varied. Identifying and addressing these will become increasingly important, particularly as students go on to clinical practice where their knowledge of biochemistry will be tested in a ‘real’ context.