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.