gms | German Medical Science

16. Grazer Konferenz – Qualität der Lehre: Curriculum planning and assessment

19. - 21. April 2012, Timisoara, Romania

Increasing relevance and context of teaching improves medical students' attitudes towards learning contents in chemistry and their appreciation of chemistry teachers


16. Grazer Konferenz – Qualität der Lehre 2012 - Curriculum planning and assessment. Timisoara, Romania, 19.-21.04.2012. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2012. Doc12grako31

doi: 10.3205/12grako31, urn:nbn:de:0183-12grako311

Published: September 5, 2012

© 2012 Oettl et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.


Medical students in the first study years frequently think that basic sciences like chemistry and physics are irrelevant for studying medicine and performing practical medical work [1]. Therefore, acceptance and - as a possible consequence – transfer and long term retention of basic science knowledge are low [2].

We tried to improve the medical students’ acceptance of chemistry courses by increasing the relevance of contents and accenting medical and everyday issues by illustrating contents with examples [2], [3]. The first 2 study modules (M01 and M02) of the curriculum of human medicine (5 weeks each) at the Medical University of Graz comprise contents of biophysics, chemistry and – to a lesser extent – anatomy. Altogether both modules include 46 h lecture, 11 h seminars and 8 h practical work in chemistry.

At the end of each module a multiple choice assessment with 60 items covering all 3 subjects was performed. At the end of module 2 an evaluation containing 21 items was carried out using a 6-point Likert-type scale (1 meaning “I fully agree” and 6 meaning “I fully disagree”). Two cohorts of first semester students (group 1, academic year 2010/11, n=304 and group 2, 2011/12, n=323) were compared. All seminars and practical work lessons in chemistry as well as 21 h of the oral lectures were included in the content development process. Besides directing the focus on contents relevant to medicine the link from chemical contents to medicine and/or everyday life experiences of the students was improved by giving examples. In the assessment of M01 the results in chemistry were slightly improved in group 2 compared to group 1. In M02 the results were essentially the same in both groups. In the evaluation there was no difference in rating the items “A relation between chemistry and its application in medicine was shown” and “I think chemical topics are relevant for studying medicine” between the groups. On the other hand, the rating of the items “Chemical contents have been illustrated by examples”, “The kind of presenting chemical contents encourages independent thinking”, “The chemistry lessons are performed in an interesting way”, “Chemistry teachers appear competent”, “Chemistry teachers appear dedicated” all improved significantly in group 2 compared to group 1. None of the items was rated worse in group 2 compared to group 1.

The results are encouraging to continue the development of the chemical learning contents in terms of relevance and context.


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