12 Tips for Applying the Science of Learning to Health Professions Education.

Journal Club Article: Gooding, H. C., Mann, K., & Armstrong, E. (2017). Twelve tips for applying the science of learning to health professions educationMedical teacher39(1), 26-31.

Background: There is a vast amount of data around the science of learning. The evidence comes from an array of specialties, from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, sociology, anthropology and behavioral economics. Much of the evidence is siloed within each speciality and/or level of education practice from school grade, higher education and the professional workplace domains.

Aim: 6 themes are identified that highlight the complex relationship in supporting education. 12 practical tips are provided for utilising the principles around the science of learning.

  • Improving the processing of information: Cognitive Load Theory: working memory and processing only certain amount of information and stored in long term memory for later use.
    • Reduce extraneous load whenever possible, especially relevant for the teacher during course design or presenting new information.
    • Help learners manage intrinsic load: build schemas through starting by using simple examples then building to complex tasks. Chunking content into manageable or ‘bitesize’ worloads.
  • Promoting effortful learning: If not used regularly what is learned is often forgotten.
    • Retrieval practice: by retrieving information from long term memory aids and strengthens neural connections.
    • Spaced retrieval and interleaving content
  • Applying learned information to new and varied contexts:
    • Applied what has been learned to new and different contexts, known as ‘transfer’.
    • To build schemas with clinical reasoning and problem solving.
  • Developing expertise: Promote the development of novice to expert.
    • Deliberate practice: practice like you play.
    • Encourage learners to create learning-orientated goals.
  • Harnessing the power of emotion for learning: Recognize emotional state and impact on learning
    • Create safe learning spaces.
  • Teaching and learning in social context: social learning theory (Bandura, 1986)
    • Learning occurs dynamically with interactions in the environment, learning is social.
    • Social nature of learning through the values, language and skill in the community.
    • Create authentic experiences in workplace learning. In adult learning it needs to be authentic and relevant for the learner.
    • Metacognition: thinking about thinking.

Further Reading

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall.

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instructionAmerican Psychologist63(8), 760.

Young, J. Q., Van Merrienboer, J., Durning, S., & Ten Cate, O. (2014). Cognitive load theory: Implications for medical education: AMEE guide no. 86Medical teacher36(5), 371-384.