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Using an orientation programme to prepare first year medical students for a problem based curriculum : a South African case study.

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The Nelson R Mandela Medical School is currently implementing Curriculum 2001, which is based on integrated, student centred, problem and groupbased learning. In 2002 a three-week orientation Module was introduced to prepare students for Problem Based Learning (PBL). The aim of this programme was to assist first year students through the transition period from high school to university life and prepare them for a new way of learning. In the university context the word orientation has come to mean assisting students to become accustomed to the new environment of university education and to make the first few weeks as friendly and informative as possible so that this transition is made effectively. It is also a socialisation process whereby students get to know what the expectations of the departments and the university are as well as being an introduction to the values and standards of the group the student is entering. For the students the change from school where they are accustomed to a particular approach to learning is a huge step to a tertiary institution where the approach to learning is different. The purpose of this study was: 1) To ascertain what students understood about the new curriculum before they embarked on it and did orientation help them to understand it better? (2) In what ways did the students perceive the orientation programme as a help to prepare first year medical students and especially for PBL? (3) What particular aspects of the orientation programme do students perceive help them in a new situation and did this prepare them for a new way of learning? (4) In what ways do staff perceive the contribution of orientation to the new PBL curriculum? Both qualitative and quantitative data was gathered from questionnaires, interviews and focus group sessions with first and second year students and staff. The first year students agreed that the orientation Programme did assist them to prepare for a new way of learning. Preparing students for a new way of learning and assistance with making the many transitions into university life is very important and necessary if students are to be successful.


Thesis (M.Ed.) - University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2004.


Student orientation., Study skills., Academic achievement., Theses--Education.