Discovering excellence through providing choice: Inspiring first year medical students using conferencing

Sarah Allsop, Sally Barnes (Editor), Karen Forbes (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstract


Entering medical school, students have made the fundamental choice to become a doctor. On arrival, this choice may feel diminished, with a regulated curriculum and fixed intended learning outcomes. Cognitive evaluation theory highlights autonomy as a key psychosocial need for nurturing intrinsic motivation. Thus, as autonomy can be promoted through providing opportunities for choice, too fixed a structure could create a disincentive to motivation.

My PhD research centres on the impact of a curriculum innovation at Bristol Medical School, the ‘Foundations of Medicine Conference’. This event, in week 10 of first year, brings students together in small communities of practice to present Pecha Kuchas, posters and creative pieces in groups. They choose topics based on what has inspired them since beginning medical school. Using a qualitative research approach, I am exploring the viewpoints of students through focus groups on their experiences of the conference. Currently, I am undertaking the thematic analysis of the pilot stage.

Early results show trends about what students feel they gain from the conference: freedom to research areas of interest, introduction to conferencing, team-working, showcasing knowledge and creativity, and promoting motivation. Students comment on the benefits of making their own choices regarding topics, task delegation, time-management, and motivation. Students were surprised and appreciative about being given this freedom of choice.

My early findings match established education theory that choice can promote intrinsic motivation and engagement. By introducing conferencing as an opportunity for students to showcase their interests early in the curriculum, we aim to show students the value of their contributions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 4 Jun 2019
EventUniversity of Bristol School of Education Doctoral Conference 2019: Diversity, Equity, and Innovation: Educational Research for the Future - University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Jun 20194 Jun 2019


ConferenceUniversity of Bristol School of Education Doctoral Conference 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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