Views of medical students: what, when and how do they want statistics taught?

S Fielding, A Poobalan, GJ Prescott, D Marais, L Aucott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: A key skill for a practising clinician is being able to do research, understand the statistical analyses and interpret results in the medical literature. Basic statistics has become essential within medical education, but when, what and in which format is uncertain.

METHODS: To inform curriculum design/development we undertook a quantitative survey of fifth year medical students and followed them up with a series of focus groups to obtain their opinions as to what statistics teaching they want, when and how.

RESULTS: A total of 145 students undertook the survey and five focus groups were held with between 3 and 9 participants each. Previous statistical training varied and students recognised their knowledge was inadequate and keen to see additional training implemented. Students were aware of the importance of statistics to their future careers, but apprehensive about learning. Face-to-face teaching supported by online resources was popular. Focus groups indicated the need for statistical training early in their degree and highlighted their lack of confidence and inconsistencies in support.

CONCLUSION: The study found that the students see the importance of statistics training in the medical curriculum but that timing and mode of delivery are key. The findings have informed the design of a new course to be implemented in the third undergraduate year. Teaching will be based around published studies aiming to equip students with the basics required with additional resources available through a virtual learning environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-169
Number of pages6
JournalScottish Medical Journal
Issue number4
Early online date24 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: none.


  • statistics
  • medical education
  • curriculum


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