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Med Educ. 2010 Jun;44(6):543-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2010.03624.x.

Applying the science of learning to medical education.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, USA.


OBJECTIVE The goal of this paper is to examine how to apply the science of learning to medical education. SCIENCE OF LEARNING The science of learning is the scientific study of how people learn. Multimedia learning - learning from words and pictures - is particularly relevant to medical education. The cognitive theory of multimedia learning is an information-processing explanation of how people learn from words and pictures. It is based on the idea that people have separate channels for processing words and pictures, that the capacity to process information in working memory is limited, and that meaningful learning requires appropriate cognitive processing during learning. SCIENCE OF INSTRUCTION The science of instruction is the scientific study of how to help people learn. Three important instructional goals are: to reduce extraneous processing (cognitive processing that does not serve an instructional objective) during learning; to manage essential processing (cognitive processing aimed at representing the essential material in working memory) during learning, and to foster generative processing (cognitive processing aimed at making sense of the material) during learning. Nine evidence-based principles for accomplishing these goals are presented. CONCLUSIONS Applying the science of learning to medical education can be a fruitful venture that improves medical instruction and cognitive theory.

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