A. Peña-Fernández1, M.A. Peña2, M. Randles1, C. Young1, M.D. Evans1

1De Montfort University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (UNITED KINGDOM)
2Universidad de Alcalá, Departamento de Ciencias Biomédicas (SPAIN)
As a result of increased availability and use of technology, university students are exchanging critical thinking and reflective mental processes to analyse and solve problems for a more simplistic approach in which they do not need to use those mental processes. Reflection is an essential learning tool for developing aspects such autonomous working, critical and analytical thinking and integration of theory with practice or the ability to apply knowledge to real life scenarios or to the professional world. Thus, the use of reflection would be critical for health care workers as their professional practice requires undertaking a process of continuous learning for professional development and gaining practical skills.

As a result, an innovative teaching group at De Montfort University (DMU) has implemented a novel pedagogical reflective strategy in large groups of students enrolled in the level 6 module “Clinical Biochemistry” shared in the BSc Biomedical Science (BMS; n=118) and BMedSci Medical Science (n=24) programmes in the academic course 2016/17. The reflective pedagogical strategy created at DMU is based on the reflective pedagogy described by Quintanilla et al. (2015) and Lewis et al. (2015). We also adopted the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy described by Jones et al. (2010) with modifications, as this pedagogy can facilitate the acquisition of professional skills. Briefly it consisted of the provision of a series of three specialised clinical case studies or reflective questions in which the student needed to reflect on their knowledge and search for information from different sources to propose a possible answer to a problem. Students were asked to provide a short report of their interpretation of the case study to answer mini-questions formulated in each reflective question.

We marked and provided comprehensive feedback to the participants on the basis of three main criteria:
a) ability to extract all the fundamental concepts;
b) ability to synthesise information and clarity of expression; and
c) ability to reflect and comment.

Each criterion was awarded with up to 5 points to assess progression of students that participated in this project. Only 23 BMS students voluntarily participated in this project and completed the first two exercises; no BMedSci students participated despite demanding a more clinical approach in the delivery of this module. Despite the lack of engagement, all participants declared in the feedback questionnaire high levels of satisfaction and would participate again. 66.7% of participants highlighted that by participating in this project they learned to reflect/improve their reflective skills. Despite observing a slight improvement in the points awarded between both exercises which could indicate an improvement due to the feedback provided, the Wilcoxon signed rank test performed revealed no statistical differences. Finally, 33.3% of participants struggled to answer the different questions due to workload (e.g. final students undertake a research project as part of their curriculum), which may explain the lack of engagement in this project. In conclusion, although our results should be considered as preliminary, this novel pedagogy facilitated the acquisition of key competences in the students such as communication and writing scientific reports/communications.