Intellectual disability content within tertiary medical curriculum: how is it taught and by whom? Academic Article uri icon


  • Individuals with intellectual disability experience higher rates of physical and mental health conditions compared with the general population, yet have inequitable access to health care services. Improving the workplace capacity of medical professionals to meet the needs of this population is one way to reduce barriers to care and improve health outcomes. Using diverse pedagogy appropriate to learning outcomes to teach medical students about intellectual disability is a necessary step in improving future workplace capacity. However, there is a lack of research into how, and by whom, medical students are taught about intellectual disability. The aim of this study was to investigate this through an audit of Australian medical school curricula.The Deans of Australian universities that provide accredited medical degrees (n = 20) were invited by email to participate in a two-phase audit of intellectual disability content in the curricula. Phase 1 (n = 14 schools) involved the Dean's delegate completing a telephone interview or questionnaire regarding medical course structure. If intellectual disability content was identified, a unit coordinator was invited to complete a survey regarding how this content was taught and by whom (Phase 2; n = 12 schools).There was considerable variability across Australian medical schools regarding methods used to teach content about intellectual disability. Didactic teaching methods were most frequently used (62% of units included some form of lecture), but workshops and tutorials were reasonably well represented (34% of units contained one or both). Thirty-six percent of units included two or more teaching methods. Almost all schools (83%) used some problem- and/or enquiry-based learning. Educator backgrounds included medicine, nursing, and allied health. A majority of schools (n = 9, 75%) involved people with intellectual disability designing and teaching content, but the extent to which this occurred was inconsistent.Renewing curricula around intellectual disability across all medical schools by introducing varied teaching methods and the inclusion of people with intellectual disability would assist students to develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, and confidence in intellectual disability health. Such renewal offers the potential to reduce barriers to service this population regularly face, thereby improving their health outcomes.


  • Trollor, Julian N
  • Eagleson, Claire
  • Turner, Beth
  • Tracy, Jane
  • Torr, Jennifer J
  • Durvasula, Seeta
  • Iacono, Teresa
  • Cvejic, Rachael C
  • Lennox, Nicolas

publication date

  • 2018