Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


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No more lectures! No more books! Prober C et al. Lecture halls without lectures – A proposal for medical education. New England Journal of Medicine 2012;366: 1657--1659.

Reviewed by Karen Forbes

What is this article about?
This commentary challenges medical educators to consider more effective methods to teach medical students. Prober and Heath argue that the way students are taught has not evolved despite significant expansion in the volume of medical knowledge covered in a finite and stable amount of time. They argue we must make better use of the limited time available by embracing means of making information more comprehensible and "stickier" for learners, through self--paced, mastery--based engaging methods. The following methods make ideas stickier:

  • When messages are unexpected enough to capture curiosity, as can be done with powerful clinical scenarios.
  • When messages come in the form of story that elicits emotion, as can occur

through patients' narratives. While these methods could make medical school lectures more engaging and memorable, the authors suggest an even more radical approach – eliminating lectures all together and using class time for active learning. If students were to make use of digital media to study material on their own time at their own pace, class time would then be available for interactive lessons that promote higher--order thinking. This format has been embraced in a variety of non--medical settings and has not only proven effective but is also positively reviewed by learners and results in better exam marks.

What are the implications?
As medical educators, we are challenged to effectively use the limited time we have to teach a large amount of medical content in a way that engages learners and promotes higher--order thinking. Prober and Heath challenge our teaching methods and push us to consider ways to make what is taught in undergraduate medical education more "sticky." Editor's note: The authors advocate for a "flipped classroom model" in which homework (watching informative on--line teaching modules and answering quizzes) is done first and class time is used to apply the knowledge in fun, stimulating, interactive, memorable ways. Should COMSEP make such teaching videos and brainstorm about ways to apply the knowledge in the classroom? (SLB)

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