gms | German Medical Science

Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA)

26.09. - 28.09.2013, Graz, Österreich

Comparing a spaced format of an emergency medicine block course with a compressed format in their impact on students’ test scores in a key-feature test


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  • corresponding author Jan Breckwoldt - Universität Zürich, Zürich, Schweiz
  • Jan Ludwig - Charité - Univeristätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Deutschland
  • Harm Peters - Charité - Univeristätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Deutschland

Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA). Graz, 26.-28.09.2013. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2013. DocV02_04

doi: 10.3205/13gma160, urn:nbn:de:0183-13gma1604

Published: August 20, 2013

© 2013 Breckwoldt 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.



Background: Spacing of teaching sessions may provide the learner with more opportunities to elaborate and process learning contents. Hence, distributing a certain amount of teaching hours over a longer time period (spaced format) may result in better learning than delivering the same amount within a shorter time period (compressed format). We wanted to evaluate this effect for an emergency medicine block course (EM-BC) on students’ procedural knowledge.

Summary of work: In the fifth year of an undergraduate medical curriculum an EM-BC of 26 teaching hours was delivered either within 3 days, or 4.5 days. At the end of the course students’ procedural knowledge was assessed by a specifically developed video-based electronic key-feature test.

Results: From 191 eligible students 156 data sets could be completely evaluated, 54 students from the spaced version, and 102 students from the compressed version. Socio-demographic characteristics and drop out rates were similar between groups.

In the key-feature-test with a possible maximum score of 22 points students from the spaced format reached a median of 15 points (13–16; 25.–75. percentile), and students from the compressed format reached 13.5 points (12–15); Cronbach’s alpha was 0.63. The observed difference was 8.5% of the median test score, being highly significant (p=0.002) at a moderate effect size (Cohens d=0.53).

Conclusions: A spaced distribution of teaching hours resulted in a moderate increase of procedural knowledge if compared to a compressed distribution. Spacing of teaching units may produce moderate gains in cognitive learning [1].


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