Student uncertainties drive teaching during case presentations: More so with SNAPPS

Terry Wolpaw, Luc Côté, Klara K. Papp, Georges Bordage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Purpose: To compare the nature of uncertainties expressed by medical students using the six-step SNAPPS technique for case presentations (Summarize history and findings; N>arrow the differential; Analyze the differential; Probe preceptors about uncertainties; Plan management; Select case-related issues for self-study) versus those expressed by students doing customary presentations and to elucidate how preceptors respond. Method: The authors performed a secondary analysis in 2009 of data from a 2004-2005 randomized study, comparing SNAPPS users' case presentations with other students' presentations. Authors coded transcriptions of audiotaped presentations to family medicine preceptors for type of student uncertainties, nature of preceptor responses, alignment of preceptor responses with uncertainty types, and expansion of preceptors' responses beyond addressing uncertainties. Results: The analysis included 19 SNAPPS and 41 comparison presentations. SNAPPS students expressed uncertainties in all case presentations, nearly twice as many as the comparison group (χ1df = 12.89, P = .0001). Most SNAPPS users' uncertainties (24/44 [55%]) focused on diagnostic reasoning compared with 9/38 (24%) for comparison students' (χ1df = 8.08, P = .004). Uncertainties about clinical findings and medications/management did not differ significantly between groups. Preceptors responded with teaching aligned with the uncertainties and expanded 24/66 (36%) of their comments. CONCLUSION: Students can drive the content of the teaching they receive based on uncertainties they express to preceptors during case presentations. Preceptors are ready to teach at "the drop of a question" and align their teaching with the content of students' questions; these learning moments-in context and just-in-time-can be created by students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1210-1217
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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