Use of learning contracts in an office-based primary care clerkship

Mary McGrae McDermott, Raymond H. Curry, F. Conrad Stille, Gary J Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives. This paper describes implementation of the learner-centred learning goal within the primary care clerkship at a Midwestern, United States medical school. Design. The learner-centred learning goal exercise was developed to tailor students' educational activities to their personal level of development and to enhance their commitment to life-long learning in medicine. In the learner-centred learning goal exercise, each student records three specific learning goals early in the primary care clerkship. Students record the methods by which they will pursue and document achievement of each goal. Attainment of the learner-centred learning goal is evaluated based on an oral presentation at the end of the clerkship. We compiled presented learning goals along with the corresponding grade. Students' ratings of the learner-centred learning goal exercise were also compiled. Evaluations and ratings were made on a 1-5 Likert scale, where 1 is the best rating and 5 is worst. Setting. Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, USA. Subjects. One hundred and seventy-seven third- and fourth-year medical students who presented learner-centred learning goals between 1 July 1995 and 30 June 1996. Results. Students rated pursuing their individual learning goals more worthwhile than most clerkship lectures but less worthwhile than the office experience. Several learning goals were chosen by a disproportionate number of students, potentially indicative of some perceived deficiencies elsewhere in the curriculum. Third-year students ranked the learner-centred learning goal exercise more favourably than fourth-year students (2.14 vs. 2.51, P = 0.03). Conclusions. The learner-centred learning goal exercise is a feasible and well-received method within our primary care clerkship. Further study is required to determine whether the exercise promotes independent learning after formal medical school education is completed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-381
Number of pages8
JournalMedical education
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 18 1999


  • Clinical clerkship, * methods
  • Family practice, education
  • Internal medicine, * learning, education
  • Paediatrics, education
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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