Optimal timing of faculty teaching when combined with near-peer teaching: a mixed methods analysis

Leander Alt

Keywords: teaching methods, medical education, ultrasound, near-peer teaching


Near-peer teaching is increasingly used in medical education to support or replace faculty teaching. It has many positive aspects for learners and tutors, some of which are explained by closer social and cognitive congruence between learners and near-peer tutors (NPTs).

Research question(s):

This study investigates the optimal timing of teaching in a course including both faculty tutors (FTs) and NPTs from a participants' point of view and when comparing examination scores.


64 third-year medical students underwent a basic ultrasound course, with 75% of lessons taught by NPTs and 25% by FTs. Each of four groups had a different faculty teaching timing. A mixed methods approach used a survey and semi-structured interviews at the course end to elicit learners’ preferences, and end-of-course examination scores to look for differences in outcomes.


Most learners preferred having faculty teaching in the second half of the course, saying it would be overwhelming to start with faculty tutors. Learners preferred between a quarter and a third of the teaching to be from FTs, with NPTs rated better at teaching basics, and FTs contributing unique, helpful clinical knowledge. There was no significant between-group difference in examination scores.


Medical students preferred most of their teaching to be from NPTs, with some faculty input in the second half of the course.

Points for discussion:

Why were NPTs perceived to teach the basics better than FTs?

Why were there no differences in examination scores while participants had such clear preferences in timing of FT?

How should we include NPTs in our curriculum (combined with FT)?


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