Article

Using "concept sorting" to study learning processes and outcomes.

Department of Medicine, University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Academic Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.47). 09/2002; 77(8):831-6. DOI: 10.1097/00001888-200208000-00017
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT First, to evaluate "concept sorting" as a tool for assessing knowledge organization in the memories of first-year medical students, and second, to study the relationship between knowledge organization and examination performance.
During 2001, first-year medical students taking the Renal Course at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine were given a questionnaire on scheme use and were given a concept-sorting task in the domain of metabolic alkalosis. The sophistication of their concept sorting was graded using the number of physiology-based groups they formed. Review of the course's examination scores allowed correlation with concept-sorting scores. Statistical analyses used Fisher's exact test and the two-sample t-test. Pearson's correlation coefficient and the kappa statistic were used for correlation between raters.
A total of 81 of 99 students completed the study. The concept-sorting score (mean +/- SEM) for students who used the scheme was higher than was the score for students who did not (2.5 +/- 0.14 versus 1.91 +/- 0.12, p =.016). Students who scored higher in the concept-sorting task, referred to as "deep learners," scored higher than did "surface learners" on exam questions on metabolic alkalosis (2.81 versus 2.29, p =.02). There was no difference in the overall examination performances between the two groups.
Concept sorting may be a useful tool for studying the learning process. Scheme use by students produces a positive outcome on examination performance.

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