Bioethics curriculum for undergraduate medical students: An evaluation study utilizing mixed methods approach

Document Type



Educational Development; Biological and Biomedical Sciences


Background: The undergraduate bioethics curriculum introduced in a private medical college in Pakistan in 1988 and revised in 2009 has evolved over time to incorporate globally relevant innovations, including integration of bioethics spirally within an existing problem-based learning curricular framework. The present evaluation study shares the results of this integrated bioethics curriculum delivered for 10 years across the five-year undergraduate medical curriculum. The study assessed the effectiveness of the curriculum in terms of student achievement, appropriateness of course contents and efficiency of instructional methods.
Methods: The study utilized a mixed method sequential explanatory design. The quantitative method was used in the first phase to gather data by utilizing a structured online questionnaire. This was followed by the second phase of qualitative methods to explain the findings of the first phase and enrich the data gathered. This phase was based on focus group discussions and document review.
Results: Student and faculty responses showed the curriculum contents to be relevant, informative, and appropriate as per learning objectives and student achievement. Multi-modal instructional methods used were stated to be effective and engaging; small group teaching and shorter sessions suggested to be preferable for fostering discussion and maintaining student engagement and attention. Large class formats were stated to be less effective. Students affirmed the contribution of bioethics education to their personal and professional development and ethical positioning. The majority of students agreed that the curriculum contributed to their knowledge acquisition (60.3-71.2%), skill development (59.41-60.30%) and demonstration of ethical/professional behavior (62.54-67.65%). The ranges indicate agreement with related sets of questions. Participants suggested that the curriculum could be further strengthened by better integration in clinical years, role modelling and providing opportunities for application in clinical health care settings. Moreover, topics like ethical issues related to the use of social media, public health ethics and ethics and law were suggested as additions to the existing curriculum. These findings have regional and global relevance for the development and assessment of effective bioethics curricula.
Conclusion: An effective bioethics curriculum for undergraduate medical education should run longitudinally across the 5 year curriculum and be integrated in the modules and clerkships. Basic acquisition of knowledge and skills takes place in Years 1 & 2 with reinforcement and application in Years 3-5. Learning embedded in an integrated curriculum can help students recognize, critically analyze and address ethical dilemmas. Involvement and commitment of the clinical faculty is essential for reinforcing the ethical principles and concepts learnt in the earlier years.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Medical Education