Background Medical teaching aims to develop attitudes and behaviors underlying professional competence of future physicians. We investigated whether a mandatory course on scientific methodology in the second study year could affect students' attitudes toward science in medicine.
Method In a longitudinal study, students (n = 241) enrolling in 2001-2002 academic year at a single medical school were followed up until graduation in 2006-2007. Each year, they filled out a Likert-type questionnaire of 18 statements evaluating attitude toward science. Direct influence of the course on students' attitudes was tested in a nonrandomized controlled trial with the 2006-2007 second year student cohort.
Results Positive students' attitudes toward science increased during study years (mean [SD] score of the maximum score of 90): from 57.6 (6.0) in the first to 69.8 (10.4) in the sixth year. There was a significant trend of increase in attitudes with the years of study (cubic trend by polynomial contrasts analysis, P = 0.011). Attendance of a course on research methodology significantly increased positive attitudes (score, 67.0 [7.0] before and 70.8 [7.5] after course, P = 0.032 vs control group), regardless of grade point average. The intervention had an effect even when the influence of the initial attitude was accounted for (F1,140 = 9.25, P = 0.003; analysis of covariance). The attitude changes after the course was greatest in students with low initial attitude scores (Spearman r initial score, score difference, −0.44).
Conclusions Medical students have positive attitudes toward science and scientific method in medicine. Attendance of a course on research methodology had positive short-term effect on students' attitudes toward science. This positive effect should be maintained by vertical integration of the course in the medical curriculum.
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