Directed Study Pathway Curriculum Advantages

In instituting the alternate learning pathways (DSP, PBL and PCSP) at LECOM, the college recognizes that learning styles differ among students and that such alternative pathways, through the basic and clinical sciences of the OMS I and OMS II years, offer unique advantages to many students.

Some of these advantages and some special characteristics of the DSP are:

  • DSP helps in turning students into “lifelong learners,” reinforcing learning skills needed throughout a physician’s career. The program is especially suited for students who possess skills in self-education and time management, and in particular, the ability to efficiently learn without a constant direction from faculty. All of these are important professional assets to the practicing physician and define “lifelong learners.” It should be noted that there is no statistical evidence that demonstrates superiority of any pathway; however, after completing the curriculum, most DSP students do believe that the DSP curriculum aids them in developing learning skills that are necessary for an effective clinical educational experience during their OMS III and OMS IV years of medical school.
  • DSP involves an active learning process, with students being responsible for their own learning and progress. By practicing the self-discipline necessary to direct their own efforts to achieve mastery of subjects, students receive the self-satisfaction that comes from independent learning, which in turn motivates them to continue learning. In this process, faculty members direct the learning through detailed learning objectives rather than lecturing to the students. Since the DSP process is active learning, faculty are utilized more for learning difficult concepts, consulting for clarification, and to help in determining additional resources or answer specific questions.
  • There are regular examinations within each course and check points along the way. These checkpoints include content meetings 3-4 per week with faculty to assess student knowledge. Each meeting has a formative quiz worth 3-5 points and provides an opportunity for students to clarify learning objectives and ask questions.
  • Faculty can use a greater variety of teaching materials. In choosing learning resources for the DSP students, faculty may specify texts, articles, websites and other audio-visual resources for study. In turn, the module approach provides the freedom for students who want more information to use optional or additional resources for gaining in-depth knowledge.
  • Directed study is considered by some students to be less stressful as they feel a flexible schedule is less onerous than a rigid one; however, such flexibility requires excellent time-management and discipline.

Obviously, a special program such as DSP has certain disadvantages that may make either the LDP or PBL a better choice for certain students:

  • Students who cannot manage time well may do poorly in the DSP. A DSP student must be well organized and able to set reasonable time schedules for themselves and hold to them with effective study.
  • DSP students must be well disciplined against outside distractions and procrastination. The fixed lecture schedule of the LDP is a great motivator to study; some students study more effectively with a strict schedule, and these students are not appropriate candidates for the DSP.

While many students may have developed some independent study habits while in college, some have not honed these skills and it may take a little time to develop appropriate study habits for DSP. In the case of some students, the use of time to develop such skills may leave them with insufficient time to master the material and thus creates a disadvantage. However, it is recognized that all students require an adjustment period for developing a study approach and learning how to best budget their time. For this purpose, early on the DSP curriculum is slowly introduced and geared towards allowing time to develop independent study skills.