Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


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Better slides - better learning!
Teaching for understanding in medical education using multimedia design principles. Issa N et al. Medical Education 2013; 47:388-396.
Reviewed by Gary Beck

What was the study question?
The cognitive theory of multimedia learning has been studied and described in cognitive and educational psychology literature. Do lecture slides applying this theory affect students’ long-term retention and transfer on a surgery clerkship?

How was the study done?
At the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, the authors altered a single lecture about shock (delivered in the surgery clerkship) according to Mayer’s principles of multimedia design. Thirty-seven students received the traditional (bullet-point lists on powerpoint slides) lecture while 43 students received the modified lecture which had more pictures and graphs, less text and fewer slides. The same lecturer gave both lectures. Students were tested for both retention of knowledge and transfer of knowledge (pre-test, post-test, 1-week post-test, 4-week post-test). Tests included 10 open-ended questions (5 retention and 5 transfer).

What were the results?
Pre-test scores for retention and transfer did not differ significantly between traditional and modified groups. In the post-tests, however, the modified group outperformed the traditional group on transfer and retention for each test.

What are the implications of these findings?
Applying design principles of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning to lecture slides improved medical students’ long-term retention and transfer. Multimedia design principles should be considered when developing learning modules, such as CLIPP cases or other resources.

Editor’s note: This study encourages us to apply cognitive principles to our teaching. While the students definitely learned more in the modified lecture (as evidenced by their higher scores in both retention and transfer of knowledge) that was designed with the assistance of a multimedia expert, an educator and an instructor, it is interesting to note that the lecturer received the same scores for both the traditional and modified lecture. This makes me wonder about the value we place on teachers’ ratings from students (SLB).

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