Communicating with first year medical students to improve Communication Skills teaching in The University of the West Indies

Stella Williams, Bidyadhar Sa, Paula Nunes and Keith Stevenson

Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago

Submitted: 09/02/2010; Accepted: 10/03/2010; Published: 14/03/2010

Int J Med Educ. 2010; 1:5-9; doi: 10.5116/ijme.4b97.d76a

© 2010 Stella Williams et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: This paper reports first year Caribbean medical students' preferred and least preferred Communication Skills teaching styles. It also reports their views on assessment and what qualities they valued in a good Communication Skills teacher.

Methods: Questionnaires were administered to first year students at the end of Semester One and the data compared with the results of a study using the same questionnaire format in the UK.

Results: Caribbean medical students favoured interactive lectures with opportunities for discussion over the didactic formal lecture. The least preferred modes of teaching selected were private study, formal lecture, role play and student presentations. The qualities that students rated highly in their Communication Skills teachers were being a skilled teacher and being knowledgeable and approachable. The preferred assessment style was a 50-50 balance between coursework and exam.

Conclusions: First year medical students in the Caribbean studying Communication Skills preferred interactive lectures with opportunities for discussion. Their explanations indicated that interactive lectures provided more stimulation allowing opportunities for learning and greater retention of information. Students also found small group discussions with constructive feedback helpful in developing their own communication skills. Other international faculty may find this approach of establishing students' preferences for teaching style useful in planning their curriculum delivery.