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Med Teach. 2017 Dec 21:1-7. doi: 10.1080/0142159X.2017.1408900. [Epub ahead of print]

How teachers can help learners build storage and retrieval strength.

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a Office of Undergraduate Medical Education , Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary , Calgary , Canada.
b Office of Student Affairs , Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary , Calgary , Canada.



To be an effective teacher, content expertise is necessary but alone does not guarantee optimal learning outcomes for students. In this article, the authors discuss ways in which medical teachers can shape the learning of their students and enable them to become more efficient and effective learners.


Using Bjork and Bjork's new theory of disuse as their framework, the authors discuss strategies to improve storage strength of to-be-learned information and strategies to improve retrieval strength of learned information.


Strategies to improve storage strength include optimizing cognitive load, providing causal explanations, and giving effective feedback. Strategies to improve retrieval strength include situated cognition and various types of retrieval practice.


Adopting these teaching strategies should hopefully help teachers improve the learning outcomes of their students, but there is still a need for further research into the science of learning and the science of instruction, including comparative effectiveness of different teaching strategies and how best to translate findings from the psychology literature into medical education.

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