Augmenting fellow education through spaced multiple-choice questions

Alice E. Barsoumian, Heather C. Yun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: The San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium Infectious Disease Fellowship program historically included a monthly short-answer and multiple-choice quiz. The intent was to ensure medical knowledge in relevant content areas that may not be addressed through clinical rotations, such as operationally relevant infectious disease. After completion, it was discussed in a small group with faculty. Over time, faculty noted increasing dissatisfaction with the activity. Spaced interval education is useful in retention of medical knowledge and skills by medical students and residents. Its use in infectious disease fellow education has not been described. To improve the quiz experience, we assessed the introduction of spaced education curriculum in our program. Materials and Methods: A pre-intervention survey was distributed to assess the monthly quiz with Likert scale and open-ended questions. A multiple-choice question spaced education curriculum was created using the Qstream(R) platform in 2011. Faculty development on question writing was conducted. Two questions were delivered every 2 d. Incorrectly and correctly answered questions were repeated after 7 and 13 d, respectively. Questions needed to be answered correctly twice to be retired. Fellow satisfaction was assessed at semi-annual fellowship reviews over 5 yr and by a one-time repeat survey. Results: Pre-intervention survey of six fellows indicated dissatisfaction with the time commitment of the monthly quiz (median Likert score of 2, mean 6.5 h to complete), neutral in perceived utility, but satisfaction with knowledge retention (Likert score 4). Eighteen fellows over 5 yr participated in the spaced education curriculum. Three quizzes with 20, 39, and 48 questions were designed. Seventeen percentage of questions addressed operationally relevant topics. Fifty-nine percentage of questions were answered correctly on first attempt, improving to 93% correct answer rate at the end of the analysis. Questions were attempted 2,999 times. Fellows consistently indicated that the platform was “highly enjoyed,” “beneficial,” a “fun format,” and “completely satisfied.” Fellows additionally commented that they desired more questions and considered the platform helpful in board preparation. Formal survey data post-intervention found that the fellows were satisfied with the new approach, found it to be useful in board preparation, overall educational value, and in-line with their personal learning style (median Likert score of 4 for all queries). Fellows were satisfied with time commitment, spending a mean of 47 min on the spaced education curriculum questions per month. Conclusions: Introduction of a spaced education curriculum resulted in a sustained positive learner experience for >5 yr with demonstrated mastery of material. Spaced education learning is a viable addition to augment training experience, especially in areas of curricular gaps such as operational medicine. Correct answer data may also be useful to perform Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-required objective assessment of knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e122-126
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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