Curricular Innovation in the Surgery Clerkship: Can Assessment Methods Influence Development of Critical Thinking and Clinical Skills?

James A. McClintic, Clifford L. Snyder, Kimberly M. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: Although key clinical skills have been defined in the Core Entrustable Professional Activities, there is a need to improve medical school curricula with standardized training opportunities and assessments of these skills. Thus, we aimed to develop an innovative curriculum that emphasized critical thinking and clinical skills. We hypothesized that we would be able to observe measurable improvement on assessments of students’ critical thinking and clinical skills after the implementation of the new curriculum. Design: Prospective, Quasi-Experimental study with the use of historical controls. Setting: This study took place through the third-year surgical clerkship at the University of Texas Medical Branch at the Galveston, Houston, and Austin, Texas, locations. Participants: A total of 214 students taking the third-year surgical clerkship for the first time during the periods of interest were included. Results: Although the students with traditional curriculum improved 9.5% on a short answer exam from preclerkship to postclerkship completion, the students with new curriculum improved by 40%. Students under the new curriculum performed significantly better on the Objective Structured Clinical Exam; however, their shelf scores were lower. Conclusions: Under this new curriculum and grading system, we demonstrated that students can be incentivized to improve critical thinking and clinical skills, but this needs to be balanced with knowledge-based incentives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1236-1244
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Medical Knowledge
  • Patient Care
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Professionalism
  • Systems-Based Practice
  • clerkship;
  • curriculum;
  • entrustable professional activities
  • surgery;

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Surgery


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