The Impact of Massed and Spaced-Out Curriculum in Oncology Knowledge Acquisition

Cecilio-Fernandes, D., Aalders, W. S., de Vries, J. & Tio, R. A., Aug-2018, In : Journal of Cancer Education. 33, 4, p. 922-925 4 p.

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Starting in 2009, cancer has been the leading cause of death in the Netherlands. Oncology is therefore an important part of the medical curriculum in undergraduate education. It is crucial that medical students know about cancer, since doctors will encounter many cases of oncology. We have compared the influence that teaching oncology has when spread over a 3-year curriculum versus concentrated in one semester. The participants comprised 525 medical students from one medical school with comprehensive integrated curricula. Of those, 436 followed the massed curriculum, with oncology concentrated in one semester. The remaining 89 students followed a spaced-out curriculum, in which oncology was spread out over 3 years. To measure students' knowledge, we used their progress test results from 2009 to 2012. All questions about oncology were categorized and selected. Because of our unbalanced sample and missing data and to reduce the chances for a type II error, we compared the growth of oncology questions using mixed effect models. A cubic growth model with an unstructured covariance matrix fitted our data best. At the start, students in the spaced-out curriculum scored higher on oncology questions. The initial growth was faster for the spaced-out curriculum students, whereas the acceleration over time was slower compared to the massed curriculum students. At the end of the growth curve, the knowledge of the massed curriculum students increased faster. In the last test, the massed curriculum students outperformed those in the spaced-out curriculum. The way students acquired and applied their knowledge was similar in both curricula. It seems, however, that students benefitted more from massed than spaced-out education, which may be due to the comprehensive integrated teaching involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)922-925
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Cancer Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2018


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