Share this article on:

Student Uncertainties Drive Teaching During Case Presentations: More So With SNAPPS

Wolpaw, Terry MD, MHPE; Côté, Luc MSW, PhD; Papp, Klara K. PhD; Bordage, Georges MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182628fa4
Case Presentations

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 (χ21df = 12.89, P = .0001). Most SNAPPS users’ uncertainties (24/44 [55%]) focused on diagnostic reasoning compared with 9/38 (24%) for comparison students’ (χ21df = 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.

Dr. Wolpaw is associate dean, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Côté is professor, Department of Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine, Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Dr. Papp is associate dean, State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York. When this study was conducted, she was associate professor, Department of General Medical Sciences, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Bordage is professor, Department of Medical Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Wolpaw, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Office of Curricular Affairs, T402, 10900 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106-4924; telephone: (216) 368-6989; e-mail:

© 2012 by the Association of American Medical Colleges