An online teaching method, developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, can help second year optometry students develop reflective abilities, according to a study published in the Journal of Optometry. The method — which involves role playing, small group instruction, and peer feedback — may be useful for schools considering a hybrid teaching method for the future, researchers say.
The study included 104 second year optometry students (mean age, 21.4 years) randomly assigned to groups of 12. The students met virtually on a weekly basis and performed a role playing activity in which 1 student played the role of an optometrist while another played the role of the patient. The remaining group members observed the interaction and provided feedback regarding the optometry skills, use of evidence-based practice, and soft skill proficiency of the student playing the doctor’s role. Students completed the Groningen Reflection Ability Scale (GRAS) questionnaire to measure reflective abilities and expressed agreement with survey items through a 4-point Likert scale (1, strongly disagree; 4, strongly agree).
Overall, students demonstrated a significant improvement in reflective ability (P =.04) at the conclusion of the course. However, when stratified into reflection components, there were no significant improvements when considering self-reflection (P =.35), empathetic reflection (P =.55), or communication reflection (P =.49). Students improved their awareness of professional standards, laws and guidelines, and examining thoughts prior to speaking — which was evident in reflections provided by the students, according to the report.
The researchers highlight the importance of developing online methods to encourage reflection in optometry students in the case of a forced shutdown or movement to a hybrid model of learning. “With limited availability of clinical exposure and face-to-face sessions, it is important that we support clinical training activities by reflective practices, which can be designed with virtual patient experiences and online group discussions as demonstrated by this study.”
Study limitations include a small student sample size and small number of clinical online instructors.
Doron R, Eichler R, Rajhans V. Effectiveness of online learning in improving optometry student’s reflective abilities. J Optom. Published online November 16, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.optom.2022.10.001