Computer-Assisted Instruction Improves Clinical Reasoning Skills of Dietetics Students

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OBJECTIVE: The effects of a computer-assisted instruction (CAI) tutorial program on learning clinical reasoning skills were compared in undergraduate dietetics students. DESIGN: A drill-and-practice program to control for time on task, and tutorial program, and a simulation program, as the test vehicle, were developed. The tutorial and simulation programs presented data on a patient with cardiovascular disease. SETTING: Subjects were tested in 30 undergraduate dietetics programs. SUBJECTS: Participants were 413 undergraduate diet therapy students enrolled in a coordinated program in dietetics (CPD) or a didactic program in dietetics (DPD). INTERVENTION: After completion of lectures on cardiovascular disease, subjects were given the drill-and-practice program plus a simulation test (group 1), the tutorial plus a simulation test (group 2), or the simulation test only (group 3). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Scores on the simulation test were compared. Variables included type of CAI, dietetics program, year in school, computer experience, and experience using a medical chart. Mastery of objectives related to lower- and higher-level clinical reasoning skills introduced in the tutorial program was computed. STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: One-way analysis of variance and Student-Newman Keuls tests were conducted to determine any differences among the three groups. Reliability was determined using the Kuder-Richardson Formula 20. RESULTS: The reliability coefficient of the stimulation test was 0.93. Group 2 higher on the simulation test than group 1 or group 3. As a group, the CPD students scored higher than the DPD students. When CPD and DPD students were divided into the three experimental groups, there was no significant difference between the CPD and DPD student simulation scores. Group 2 mastered all objectives for lower-level reasoning skills and the higher-level decision-making objective better than groups 1 and 3. APPLICATIONS/CONCLUSIONS: A computer tutorial program enhanced clinical reasoning skills in undergraduate dietetics students. This type of program could be used to supplement many topics taught in diet therapy and provide DPD students with experimental learning before their clinical intern practicums.