MANUSCRIPT: Using cognitive theory to facilitate medical education
Educators continue to search for better strategies for medical education. Although the unifying theme of reforms was “increasing interest in, attention to, and understanding of the knowledge base structures”, it is difficult to achieve all these aspects via a single type of instruction.
We used related key words to search in Google Scholar and Pubmed. Related search results on this topic were selected for discussion.
Despite the range of different methods used in medical education, students are still required to memorize much of what they are taught, especially for the basic sciences. Subjects like anatomy and pathology carry a high intrinsic cognitive load mainly because of the large volume of information that must be retained. For these subjects, decreasing cognitive load is not feasible and memorizing appears to be the only strategy, yet the cognitive load makes learning a challenge for many students. Cognitive load is further increased when inappropriate use of educational methods occurs, e.g., in problem based learning which demands clinical reasoning, a high level and complex cognitive skill. It is widely known that experts are more skilled at clinical reasoning than novices because of their accumulated experiences. These experiences are based on the formation of cognitive schemata. In this paper we describe the use of cognitive schemata, developed by experts as worked examples to facilitate medical students’ learning and to promote their clinical reasoning.
We suggest that cognitive load theory can provide a useful framework for understanding the challenges and successes associated with education of medical professionals.