Undergraduate allergy teaching in a UK medical school: comparison of the described and delivered curriculum

Yasser Shehata, Michael Ross, Aziz Sheikh
Primary Care Respiratory Journal: Journal of the General Practice Airways Group 2007, 16 (1): 16-21

BACKGROUND: Concerns have been raised about the adequacy of allergy teaching in UK undergraduate medical curricula. Our previous work, which involved undertaking a systematic analysis of the documented curricular learning objectives relating to allergy teaching in a UK medical school, found references to allergy teaching in each of the five years of study but also identified some apparent omissions in allergy teaching. These may represent actual gaps in relation to allergy training, or alternatively may reflect dissonance between the described and delivered curricula.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the described and delivered undergraduate curricula on allergy and allergy-related topics in a UK medical school.

METHODS: We identified and e-mailed the individuals responsible for each of the 43 modules in the five-year undergraduate medical programme at the University of Edinburgh, enquiring about the delivery of allergy-related teaching within their modules. We then compared these responses with the results of the previous study mapping allergy-related teaching across the undergraduate curriculum.

RESULTS: Fifty-one individuals were identified as being responsible for leading the 43 modules in the curriculum. Forty-nine (96%) of these module organisers responded to our enquiry; these individuals represented 41 of the 43 modules (95%). Module organisers reported that allergy-related teaching and learning was delivered in 14 modules (33%), was absent in 13 (30%) modules, and may occur to varying degrees within a further 10 (23%) modules. Module organisers' responses about the delivered curriculum on allergy were consistent with the findings from documented learning objectives in 21 (49%) modules. They also reported allergy teaching and learning in modules which had not been identified by examination of the learning objectives; however, there were still important gaps in the allergy-related curriculum.

CONCLUSIONS: Information gathered from teaching staff confirms that specific teaching and learning on allergic disorders is currently being delivered in all five years of the undergraduate curriculum. However, comparison between the described and delivered curricula on allergy revealed discrepancies highlighting the complex nature of the undergraduate curriculum and the difficulties involved in mapping specific teaching themes within them. This assessment has revealed gaps in allergy training which need to be addressed.

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