Monday, August 25, 2008

Have We Over PowerPointed Medical Students?

Has lecturing with PowerPoint (ppt) made medical students lazy learners? Is there no longer any reason for students to read their textbooks? Is teaching with ppt a disservice to students?

This transcript of a thought-provoking talk given by Dr. Frederick S. Southwick of the University of Florida College of Medicine, may give us some answers to these questions He is the 2007 recipient of the Theodore E. Woodward Award honoring physicians who have made major contributions to medical education research:

Southwick, FS. (2007). Theodore E. Woodward Award: spare me the PowerPoint and bring back the medical textbook. Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, 118, 115-22.

A tutorial for 4th year medical students revealed absent long-term retention of microbiology and infectious disease facts taught during the 2nd year. Students were suffering from the Ziegarnik effect, the loss of memory after completion of a task. PowerPoint lectures and PowerPoint notes combined with multiple-choice questions may have encouraged this outcome; this teaching format was also associated with minimal use of the course textbook. During the subsequent year, active learning techniques, Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) and Peer Instruction (PI) were used, and instructors specifically taught from the textbook. Essays and short answer questions were combined with multiple-choice questions to encourage understanding and recall. Performance on the National Board Shelf exam improved from the 59(th) percentile (2002-2004) to the 83(rd) percentile (2005), and textbook use increased from 1.6% to 79%. This experience demonstrates that strategies incorporating active learning and textbook use correlate with striking improvement in medical student performance.

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