Towards effective outcomes in teaching, learning and assessment of law in medical education
AbstractContext Law is slowly emerging as a core subject area in medical education, alongside content on the ethical responsibilities of doctors to protect and promote patient health and well-being. Curriculum statements have begun to advise on core content and methods for organising teaching and assessment. However, no comprehensive overview of approaches to the delivery of this law curriculum has been undertaken.Objectives This paper reports an assessment of the nature and strength of the published evidence base for the teaching, learning and assessment of law in medical education. It also provides a thematic content overview from the best available literature on the teaching of law to medical students and on the assessment of their legal knowledge and skills.Methods A systematic review of the evidence base was completed. Detailed scrutiny resulted in the inclusion of 31 empirical sources and 11 conceptual papers. The quality of the included material was assessed. Results Significant gaps exist in the evidence base. Empirical studies of the teaching of law are characterised by insufficient sample sizes and a focus on individual study programmes. They rely on measures of student satisfaction and on evaluating short-term outcomes rather than assessing whether knowledge is retained and whether learning impacts on patient outcomes. Studies reveal a lack of coordination between pre- or non-clinical and clinical medico-legal education. Although evidence on the development of students’ knowledge is available, much learning is distant from the practice in which its application would be tested. Law learning in clinical placements appears to be opportunistic rather than structured. Conclusions The place of law in the curriculum remains uncertain and should be more clearly identified. A more robust knowledge base is needed to realise the aspirations behind curriculum statements on law and to enable medical students to develop sufficient legal literacy to manage challenging practice encounters. Further research is needed into effective methods of teaching, learning and assessing legal knowledge and skills during and following initial medical education.
CitationPreston-Shoot, M. and McKimm, J. (2011) 'Towards effective outcomes in teaching, learning and assessment of law in medical education', Medical Education, 45(4), pp.339-346.