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Acceptance of Applications for the PhD Research Project ‘PHD-2023-A3: Investigating students’ preparation for clinical training skills in medical undergraduate education’

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Type: Full time

The PhD in Medical Sciences:

The University of Nicosia Medical School offers the degree PhD in Medical Sciences. The degree is awarded to students who successfully complete an independent research programme that breaks new ground in the chosen field of study. The PhD programme aspires to empower students to become independent researchers, thus advancing innovation and development.

The Research Project:

We are currently inviting applications through a competitive process for high calibre candidates to apply for a PhD Research Project in the fields of Medical Education. The successful candidate will enrol on the PhD programme in Medical Sciences and will work under the Supervision of Dr Panayiota Andreou with expertise in the fields of Medical Education at the University of Nicosia Medical School.

Project Description:

Code and Title of research project: ‘PHD-2023-A3: Investigating students’ preparation for clinical and communication training skills in medical undergraduate education.’

Background and Rationale:

There is evidence that active engagement in education improves learning outcomes. More specifically, research suggests that student engagement (i.e. effort towards learning) often corresponds with positive student performance outcomes (Lee, 2014). Educational institutes try to enhance and support student engagement and preparation through various means such as study guides (Harden, Laidlaw, & Hesketh, 1999). Students who complete assigned readings prior to class tend to perform better academically (Phillips & Phillips, 2007; Terpstra, 1979) and the latter also facilitates understanding (Phillips & Phillips, 2007) and increases class participation (Chizmar, 2005; Karp & Yoels, 1976; Valde, 1997) which is known to enhance learning (Schmidt, Cohen-Scotanus, & Arends, 2009; Webb, Troper, & Fall, 1995). This is also acknowledged by students, who rate preparation ahead of their class as one of the most important factors for class participation (Aalbers et al., 2013; Karp & Yoels, 1976).

However, it is often observed that students do not always do the assigned preparatory work. Over the course of a semester students tend to rely increasingly on “skimming” the reading material ahead of class, and as a result, preparation declines (McKeachie, 2002; Phillips & Phillips, 2007). This pattern has also concerning consequences for the potential benefits of introducing popular instructional models such as the flipped or inverted classroom for large group teaching (Akçayır & Akçayır, 2018).

There is limited work investigating the reasons why students are not engaged with the advised preparatory work and even less work on interventions developed to address this issue. Some work focused on large group teaching and specifically on how digital tools including quizzes and progress monitors, can help students prepare (Francescucci, Kellershohn, & Pyle, 2020). Results indicated a positive impact on both academic assessments and self-reported feelings of engagement but only at the 100% completion levels. In other words, an all-or-nothing effect on the part of the students is required.

Similarly, work focusing on small group teaching, such as experiential communication and clinical skills training, and investigating the motivating factors of preparation (or lack of) has been equally limited. Evidence drawn from students’ perspective indicated a range of intrinsic factors (e.g. personal learning style, attitudes and beliefs) and external factors (e.g. upcoming assessment, preparatory advice) were related to student motivation and preparation behavior (Aalbers et al., 2013). The authors focused on students’ beliefs on what could influence their motivation and engagement with preparation work, with suggestions for possible interventions. However, this work focused on a cross-sectional time point without capturing the possible dynamic change of motivation over the undergraduate medical training. In addition, the study did not explore other stakeholders’ opinions in this area such as field experts and tutors delivering the trainings which could enrich and strengthen the data. Furthermore, the study did not investigate possible differences between clinical skills and clinical communication skills training accounting differences such as the use of simulated patients. It is possible that the range of factors which can influence students’ preparedness are more complex and dynamic than initially thought of, which in turn may necessitate multifaced interventions at various levels e.g. individual, group, institutional.

Aims and Objectives:

The overall aim of this research project is to facilitate and strengthen student engagement ahead of their skills training. The objectives of the proposed research are:

  1. To identify factors related to students’ attitudes and motivation towards pre-session preparation for skills training.
  2. To identify potential barriers and facilitators to pre-session preparation for skills training.
  3. To design and implement an intervention to facilitate pre-session preparation for skills training.
  4. To evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.

Tuition Fees:

The tuition fees are €15,000 in total for the first 3 years. For each additional academic year, tuition is €2,000 per year.

Requirements and Qualifications:

  • Eligible Candidates should hold (or hold by the time that the programme is expected to commence i.e. October 2023) a recognised degree (BSc or a degree equivalent for entry to a Master’s Degree) and a Master’s degree in the field(s) of Social Sciences e.g. Psychology or Health Sciences e.g. Nursing, or a Doctor of Medicine degree (e.g. MBBS or MD degree).
  • Research experience with quantitative and/or qualitative methodology would be a plus.

Application for the Research Project:

Candidates should submit an online application through this link and upload the following supporting documents:

  • A cover letter clearly stating that they apply for the PhD Research Project in the field of Medical Education ‘PHD-2023-A3: Investigating students’ preparation for clinical training skills in medical undergraduate education’
  • Copies of the applicant’s qualifications/degree(s) – the application can be assessed with scanned copies, but certified true copies must be provided if the candidate is successful and prior to enrolment on the PhD programme.
  • Copies of the applicant’s transcript(s) - the application can be assessed with scanned copies, but certified true copies must be provided if the candidate is successful and prior to enrolment on the PhD programme.
  • Proof of English language proficiency such as IELTS with a score of 7 overall and with a minimum score of 7 in writing or TOEFL iBT with a score of 94 overall and a minimum score of 27 in Writing. Other internationally recognized English language qualifications might be considered upon review. Students from the UK, Ireland USA, Canada (from English speaking provinces), Australia and New Zealand are exempt from the English language requirement.
  • Two reference letters, of which at least one should be from an academic.
  • A full Curriculum Vitae (CV).
  • Once you complete your online application please send an email to expressing officially your interest in the PhD Research Project ‘PHD-2023-A3: Investigating students’ preparation for clinical training skills in medical undergraduate education and also attaching all the required documents.

Applications should be submitted by Friday, June 2, 2023 at 5pm. Only fully completed applications, containing all necessary supporting documents will be reviewed.

Only candidates who are shortlisted will be contacted and invited to an interview.

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