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      Evaluation of a learner-designed course for teaching health research skills in Ghana

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          In developing countries the ability to conduct locally-relevant health research and high quality education are key tools in the fight against poverty. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a novel UK accredited, learner-designed research skills course delivered in a teaching hospital in Ghana.


          Study participants were 15 mixed speciality health professionals from Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Ghana. Effectiveness measures included process, content and outcome indicators to evaluate changes in learners' confidence and competence in research, and assessment of the impact of the course on changing research-related thinking and behaviour. Results were verified using two independent methods.


          14/15 learners gained research competence assessed against UK Quality Assurance Agency criteria. After the course there was a 36% increase in the groups' positive responses to statements concerning confidence in research-related attitudes, intentions and actions. The greatest improvement (45% increase) was in learners' actions, which focused on strengthening institutional research capacity. 79% of paired before/after responses indicated positive changes in individual learners' research-related attitudes (n = 53), 81% in intention (n = 52) and 85% in action (n = 52). The course had increased learners' confidence to start and manage research, and enhanced life-long skills such as reflective practice and self-confidence. Doing their own research within the work environment, reflecting on personal research experiences and utilising peer support and pooled knowledge were critical elements that promoted learning.


          Learners in Ghana were able to design and undertake a novel course that developed individual and institutional research capacity and met international standards. Learning by doing and a supportive peer community at work were critical elements in promoting learning in this environment where tutors were scarce. Our study provides a model for delivering and evaluating innovative educational interventions in developing countries to assess whether they meet external quality criteria and achieve their objectives.

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          Most cited references 32

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          Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.

          People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.
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            What is a spiral curriculum?

             R Harden (1998)
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              Research capacity strengthening in the South.

               T. C. Nchinda (2002)
              Active promotion of evidence-based decision-making at all levels of the health field is a necessary step in the direction of improving the health of the population. Recent studies have shown that the burden of disease in developing countries is high particularly the burden of infectious, communicable and non-communicable diseases and health problems of mothers and children. There is presently, a mismatch between this increased disease and health burden and the technical and human capacity of developing countries to use existing knowledge and to generate new knowledge to combat these diseases and health problems. It is therefore necessary to assist developing countries to build indigenous research capability so they can undertake studies in their own national settings the results of which will lead to the development of appropriate control strategies in their countries. Building indigenous research capacity will enable developing country scientists to translate results of studies carried out elsewhere into their individual national settings. Eventually results of such studies will increase the global knowledge base about the particular health problems and contribute to finding appropriate solutions to them. The research will, finally, increase knowledge-based decision-making by their health leadership of the country. This paper has set out to describe some experiences in capacity strengthening over the last few decades and to propose from these, mechanisms for building these capacities in a sustainable manner. This paper has described the steps in capability strengthening with special emphasis on identification of trainees, their training and deployment on return. The paper has described mechanisms of research sustainability including creation of suitable career structures, remuneration of researchers and the importance of building up suitable infrastructure for research to meet increasing demands and competence. The place of partnerships South-South, South-North and networking has been stressed. Finally, the paper calls for greater involvement by policy makers in developing countries in the entire capacity building process. They should set highly focussed research priorities, identify competence not already existing and proceed to fill these gaps along the lines described.

                Author and article information

                BMC Med Educ
                BMC Medical Education
                BioMed Central (London )
                27 June 2007
                : 7
                : 18
                [1 ]Disease Control Strategy Group, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK
                [2 ]Department of Child Health, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana
                [3 ]Department of Medicine, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana
                [4 ]Dean, School of Medical Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana
                [5 ]Chief Executive Officer, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana
                [6 ]Medical Director, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana
                Copyright © 2007 Bates et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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