HSC Education Days


Heterogeneous Grouping and Reciprocal Peer Teaching in Anatomy Medical Education

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To improve student performance in anatomy, we introduced two teaching interventions: competence-based heterogeneous (CBH) group formation and reciprocal peer teaching (RPT) to two successive medical school cohorts. Independently, CBH and RPT elevate outcomes of lower-performing students without negatively impacting higher-performing students (Donovan, 2018 & Pizzimenti, 2016). Clinical Morphology is a classroom and lab-based active-learning block designed around small groups that were historically formed by random assignment. In this study, entering medical students were administered a pre-quiz to stratify them into quartiles, after which CBH groups of six to eight students were formed. Groups were divided into two to four lab dissection groups. After completing dissections, students participated in weekly RPT sessions in which the divided CBH group alternately taught each other. As all students dissected and taught each week, we addressed a limitation of previous research showing students perform better on exams only for content they dissected and taught (Manyama, 2016 & Bentley, 2009). The two study cohorts’ performance on assessments was compared with two previous control cohorts. Study cohorts performed significantly better (x=84.2) than control cohorts (x=81.5) on a standardized NBME final exam (p < 0.001); the difference was amplified for the lowest performers and muted for the highest performers from each group. The lowest NBME scores were elevated in the study group (x=69.9) compared to the control group (x=66.4, p < 0.01). There were no differences between groups for quiz performance or NBME failure rates. The degree to which each intervention impacts these results is not clear; regardless, NBME exam scores improved significantly, most substantially for the lowest performers. These results bolster initial data from one cohort suggesting these interventions should be included in anatomy education to selectively improve lower-quartile student performance.


This presentation was presented during the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center Education Days.

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