The impact of learning environment disruption on medical student performance
Article first published online: 16 JAN 2013
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2013
Volume 47, Issue 2, pages 210–213, February 2013
How to Cite
Wilkinson, T. J., Ali, A. N., Bell, C. J., Carter, F. A., Frampton, C. M. and McKenzie, J. M. (2013), The impact of learning environment disruption on medical student performance. Medical Education, 47: 210–213. doi: 10.1111/medu.12065
- Issue published online: 16 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 16 JAN 2013
- Received 21 May 2012; editorial comments to authors 26 July 2012; accepted for publication 24 August 2012
Objectives This study aimed to quantify the effects of two distinct and separate disruptions caused by earthquakes to a medical school learning environment on two separate cohorts of Year 5 medical students.
Methods The first disruption was caused by an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 that occurred near the end of the academic year but caused minimal physical damage. The second disruption, to a different cohort of students, was caused by a magnitude 6.3 aftershock that occurred at the beginning of the academic year, caused loss of life and widespread damage to the city, and resulted in the closure of the medical school building for 2 years. Using students from the same class, who spent their year in different unaffected cities, as control subjects, and students from previous years in the same city as historic controls, we developed models to compare actual and predicted performances on end-of-year examinations in each of the two cohorts with those in the three previous unaffected year groups.
Results The predictive models fitted the data well with multiple correlations for the written (R range: 0.69–0.79) and clinical (R range: 0.52–0.69) examinations. Students in the first cohort, for whom the disruption occurred close to end-of-year examinations but had a mild effect on the physical environment, performed slightly (− 1.5% to − 2.0%) but significantly (p < 0.05) worse than predicted for all three outcomes. Students in the second cohort, who experienced major disruption of their physical environment, performed as expected.
Conclusions An unexpected disruption that occurred close to examinations, but which had less physical environmental effect, had a greater impact on assessment performance than a more severe disruption and series of disruptions to which students had time to adapt and which they could work around. Two theories are offered to explain the observations.