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Although most clinical clerkship curricula are designed to provide all students consistent exposure to defined course objectives, it is clear that individual students are diverse in their backgrounds and baseline knowledge. Ideally, the learning process should be individualized towards the strengths and weakness of each student, but, until recently, this has proved prohibitively time-consuming. The authors describe a program to develop and evaluate an iterative, Web-based educational model assessing medical students' knowledge deficits and allowing targeted teaching shortly after their identification. Beginning in 2002, a new educational model was created, validated, and applied in a prospective fashion to medical students during an internal medicine clerkship at Harvard Medical School. Using a Web-based platform, five validated questions were delivered weekly and a specific knowledge deficiency identified. Teaching targeted to the deficiency was provided to an intervention cohort of five to seven students in each clerkship, though not to controls (the remaining 7-10 students). Effectiveness of this model was assessed by performance on the following week's posttest question.Specific deficiencies were readily identified weekly using this model. Throughout the year, however, deficiencies varied unpredictably. Teaching targeted to deficiencies resulted in significantly better performance on follow-up questioning compared to the performance of those who did not receive this intervention. This model was easily applied in an additive fashion to the current curriculum, and student acceptance was high.The authors conclude that a Web-based, iterative assessment model can effectively target specific curricular needs unique to each group; focus teaching in a rapid, formative, and highly efficient manner; and may improve the efficiency of traditional clerkship teaching.

Original publication




Journal article


Academic Medicine

Publication Date





925 - 931