Objective Self-directed learning (SDL) can be as effective as instructor-led training. It employs less instructional resources and is potentially a more efficient educational approach. Although SDL is encouraged among residents in our surgical training program via 24-hour access to surgical task trainers and online modules, residents report that they seldom practice. We hypothesized that a mentor-guided SDL approach would improve practice habits among our residents. Design From 2011 to 2013, 12 postgraduate year (PGY)-2 general surgery residents participated in a 6-week minimally invasive surgery (MIS) rotation. At the start of the rotation, residents were asked to practice laparoscopic skills until they reached peak performance in at least 3 consecutive attempts at a task (individual proficiency). Setting Trainees met with the staff surgeon at weeks 3 and 6 to evaluate progress and review a graph of their individual learning curve. All trainees subsequently completed a survey addressing their practice habits and suggestions for improvement of the curriculum. Results By the end of the rotation, 100% of participants improved in all practiced tasks (p < 0.05), and each reported that they practiced more in this rotation than during rotations without mentor-guided SDL. Additionally, 6 (50%) residents reported that their skill level had improved relative to their peers. Some residents (n = 3) felt that the curriculum could be improved by including task-specific goals and additional practice sessions with the staff surgeon. Conclusions Mentor-guided SDL stimulated surgical residents to practice with greater frequency. This repeated deliberate practice led to significantly improved MIS skills without significantly increasing the need for faculty-led instruction. Some residents preferred more discrete goal setting and increased mentor guidance.
- self-directed learning
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