By Associate Professor Richard B. Gunderman MD, PhD, MPH (auth.)
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Learning, not teaching, is the ultimate outcome of medical education, and we are unlikely to foster it effectively if we do not understand what it is and how it takes place. Yet most medical educators have little or no background in formal educational theory. If we are good teachers, it is frequently because we were blessed with good educational instincts, or because we had the good fortune to study with and emulate other good teachers. We need not leave our capabilities as teachers entirely to chance, however.
In long-term memory, by contrast, we seem to have unlimited capacity. No one has ever managed to ﬁll long-term memory to the point that it cannot hold another bit of information. Let us consider each of these types of memory in more detail. A key consideration in understanding sensory memory is attention. If we are not paying attention to something, we are not likely to learn it, because it never appears in our consciousness. To take an extreme case, I am unlikely to learn much from the physiology lecture now taking place when I am across the hall in an anatomy lecture.
What do we attend to, and how can educators and learners exploit the understanding of attention to promote more effective learning? There is an old-fashioned way of getting attention that does offer some beneﬁts; namely, simply telling people to pay attention, perhaps accompanied by a blow on the head from an eraser. However, such crude approaches are limited, and there are steps we can take to make learners want to pay attention of their own accord, rather than ﬂogging them into it against their will.
Achieving Excellence in Medical Education by Associate Professor Richard B. Gunderman MD, PhD, MPH (auth.)