The University of Calgary has implemented a new curriculum which is organized according to 120 ways in which patients may present to a physician. Students are taught scheme-based problem solving rather than the more typical hypothetico-deductive or search and scan approach to problem resolution.
This study sought to determine the extent to which faculty and students were implementing and utilizing scheme-based problem solving.
All classes taught within the new clinical presentation curriculum were surveyed at the year end. Participants included four classes of first-year students and three classes of second-year students. Using a 5-point scale, students responded to survey items regarding scheme implementation and utilization.
Data were analysed using MANOVA (multivariate analysis of variance) and revealed significant differences among classes in both first- and second-year students. Increments in scheme implementation and utilization by instructors and students were observed, although instructors' utilization of schemes lagged behind that of students. A levelling effect to the benefits of schemes for problem solving was also evident. First-year students reported schemes to be very useful for learning and organizing new information.
Although it has taken time to implement curriculum change, the student response to schemes has been favourable. Faculty development and further generation of pictorial/spatial representations for all schemes, to ensure that all clinical presentations provide pathways that students can use for both learning and problem solving are recommended. Whether students who utilize schemes are more successful problem solvers is not yet known but will be the subject of study as soon as scheme delivery is predominant.