gms | German Medical Science

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018)

08.03. - 09.03.2018, München

Explorative vs classical practical course – How to inspire scientific thinking in medical students

Meeting Abstract

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018). München, 08.-09.03.2018. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2018. Doc25

doi: 10.3205/18inhere25, urn:nbn:de:0183-18inhere252

Published: March 1, 2018

© 2018 Schubert et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



Introduction: Recently, the skills of medical students in scientific thinking have been identified as an important and timely issue in medical education. Scientific thinking cannot be imparted by classic lectures, but require active involvement of students in courses. We modified a practical course in physiology. A study was designed to test whether the new course facilitates scientific thinking without impairing physiological knowledge transfer.

Methods: The study group consisted of 214 first year medical students of the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University. Written consent for participation in the study was obtained from all participants. The group was randomly divided into 2 equal-numbered groups (traditional vs. modified course). Subject of both courses was a laboratory experiment in skeletal muscle physiology. In the traditional course the students addressed topics already presented in lectures. In the modified course students dealt with the same topics as in the traditional course, but the experiment was extended to include one issue not taught before. When working on this issue, the students were instructed in scientific thinking by the teacher. Both courses were run in parallel. Thereafter, all participants filled a questionnaire with 8 multiple choice questions, addressing the physiological background of the experiments, and 1 open question, addressing 4 criteria of scientific methodology.

Results: Physiological knowledge in both groups did not differ (F(1)=0.28, p=0.60). Scores in scientific thinking in the modified course were higher (M=1.42, SD=1.05) than in the traditional course (M=1.11, SD=0.60) with F(1)=6.97, p<0.01, η2=0.03.

Discussion: Our study demonstrates that small adjustments of courses in medical education can facilitate scientific thinking without impairing knowledge transfer. However, the level of scientific thinking was still quite low. Thus, the teaching of these principles should be improved.