Med Ed Theory

There are various theories on education and learning, but one idea that I find  compelling is Sweller’s work on Cognitive Load Theory which states that people on average can only hold 7 new pieces of information in their short-term memory at a time.  For it to be stored long-term, the data will require further processing and ‘chunking’ in a meaningful way.

He suggests that when we structure a teaching episode we have to be careful to not to overload students too quickly with details.  They need time to digest and link them with pre-existing concepts.  The idea of starting with basic concepts before progressing to more advanced topics is also known as ‘scaffolding’.

I believe a major problem in Medical Education is that students are forced to rote learn a prodigious number of irrelevant or disconnected facts that are soon forgotten.   Instead I feel that a deep understanding of some fundamental tenets can be more effective in equipping a clinician than someone who seems conversant with a few random, esoteric details.  As the learner matures, the scaffold can be removed and they will learn to identify relevant and high-yield resources for themselves.

Reference: van Merriënboer JJ1, Sweller J  Cognitive load theory in health professional education: design principles and strategies