We all know that medical training is demanding. But did you know that there is a science to optimizing how much information students can process during their studies? One example is called cognitive load theory, and it can be a powerful tool in helping students learn more effectively.
What is cognitive load theory?
Cognitive load theory is a learning theory that suggests that the amount of information an individual can process at any given time is limited. So, if you want your team to learn effectively, it’s important to optimize the way you’re presenting information to minimize the amount of mental effort required to process it.
There are three main types of cognitive load: intrinsic, extraneous, and germane. Intrinsic cognitive load is the amount of mental effort required to understand the basic concepts of a task or subject. Extraneous cognitive load is anything that makes learning more difficult than it needs to be, such as poor instructions or an overly complicated interface. Germane cognitive load is the positive type of mental effort required for learning; it includes things like deep concentration and active engagement with the material.
Cognitive load theory has been used to explain a variety of phenomena in the field of education, such as why some students have difficulty understanding certain concepts, why some instructional methods are more effective than others, and why some people find it easier to learn in certain ways. But how can we use CLT in medical training?
How can we use cognitive load theory to optimize medical training?
One way to reduce cognitive load in medical training is to use learning paths. This involves breaking down complex topics into smaller, more manageable chunks and presenting them in a logical sequence. This allows learners to focus on one thing at a time, and gradually build up their understanding of the material. Another effective strategy is to use visuals wherever possible. Studies have shown that learners are more likely to remember information when it is presented visually, so using graphs, diagrams and infographics can help to reduce cognitive load and improve learning outcomes.
Modality switching can also help reduce cognitive load. This means presenting information in multiple modalities, or formats. By presenting the same material in different ways, learners can more easily focus on one piece of information at a time and gradually build up their understanding of the topic as a whole.
There are many different ways to incorporate modality switching into your medical training. For example, you could use a video or infographic summarizing key points and then provide a slide deck that goes into more detail. Or you could use an illustration to introduce the features of an investigational compound and then show medical animation demonstrating its mechanism of action. By including modality switching in your medical training, you can help your learners manage the complexity of their everyday work more effectively.
To sum up
When designing medical training programs, it’s important to keep cognitive load theory in mind in, so your trainees can learn effectively. If they try to take in too much at once, their brains will get overloaded, and they’ll be less likely to retain much of the content. So structure the information by using a learning path and a variety of materials to balance your learning community’s cognitive load.