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Teaching clinical examination using peer-assisted learning amongst graduate-entry students


  • Jon M Dickson,

  • Richard Harrington,

  • Michael J. Carter

  • Funding: We did not receive any funding for this study.

  • Conflict of interest: There are no conflicts of interest.

  • Ethical approval: The regional ethics committee (University of Oxford, Central University Research Ethics Committee) considered this study to be an audit of ongoing assessment, and formal ethical approval was deemed unnecessary. The work was carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, there was no potential harm to any of the subjects, the anonymity of the participants is guaranteed and the informed consent of all participants was obtained.

Corresponding author’s contact details: Jon M. Dickson, 237 Springvale Road, Sheffield, S10 1LG, UK. E-mail:


Background:  We ran a peer-assisted learning programme for teaching clinical examination amongst graduate-entry medical students. We had three objectives: (1) to provide a forum for using peer-assisted learning to deliver the medical schools’ clinical examination curriculum using the techniques of deliberate practice; (2) to obtain feedback on the programme using the nominal group technique; (3) to use the feedback to provide a means of improving the programme in subsequent years.

Methods:  The syllabus was based on the medical school’s first year curriculum for clinical examination, and was drawn-up by one of the faculty members. The peer tutors were given a large degree of autonomy to run the programme as they thought best. At the end of the programme we used the nominal group technique to generate feedback.

Results:  Final-year graduate-entry students are capable of organising a high-quality peer-assisted learning programme to teach clinical examination based on the medical school’s curriculum.

Discussion:  The nominal group technique provided an excellent method of generating structured feedback from the peer tutees, which required minimal resources and only a few hours of input from a neutral facilitator. The feedback session generated 14 specific suggestions for improving the programme in future years. These suggestions will be passed on to the peer tutors for next year, and in this way the feedback cycle is engrained in the programme.