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Fostering intrinsic motivation in remote undergraduate histopathology education


Aims The levels of abstraction, vast vocabulary and high cognitive load present significant challenges in undergraduate histopathology education. Self-determination theory describes three psychological needs which promote intrinsic motivation. This paper describes, evaluates and justifies a remotely conducted, post-COVID-19 histopathology placement designed to foster intrinsic motivation.

Methods 90 fourth-year medical students took part in combined synchronous and asynchronous remote placements integrating virtual microscopy into complete patient narratives through Google Classroom, culminating in remote, simulated multidisciplinary team meeting sessions allowing participants to vote on ‘red flag’ signs and symptoms, investigations, histological diagnoses, staging and management of simulated virtual patients. The placement was designed to foster autonomy, competence and relatedness, generating authenticity, transdisciplinary integration and clinical relevance. A postpositivistic evaluation was undertaken with a validated preplacement and postplacement questionnaire capturing quantitative and qualitative data.

Results There was a significant (p<0.001) improvement in interest, confidence and competence in histopathology. Clinical integration and relevance, access to interactive resources and collaborative learning promoted engagement and sustainability post-COVID-19. Barriers to online engagement included participant lack of confidence and self-awareness in front of peers.

Conclusions Fostering autonomy, competence and relatedness in post-COVID-19, remote educational designs can promote intrinsic motivation and authentic educational experiences. Ensuring transdisciplinary clinical integration, the appropriate use of novel technology and a focus on patient narratives can underpin the relevance of undergraduate histopathology education. The presentation of normal and diseased tissue in this way can serve as an important mode for the acquisition and application of clinically relevant knowledge expected of graduates.

  • medical informatics computing
  • education
  • medical
  • telepathology

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. Full learning resources and evaluative tools have been published, and freely available for reuse from the Harvard Dataverse.

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