Learning techniques that medical students use for long-term retention: A cross-sectional analysis
Amaia Urrizola 1 2 , Raúl Santiago 3 , Leire Arbea 2 4
Background: Reviews and meta-analysis conclude that distributed practice and practice testing are deemed the most effective learning techniques among undergraduate students, while rereading, underlining, and summarisation are the most known and less effective ones. However, this evidence is gathered from short-term retention studies prior to 2014, and there are other techniques with promising effect (metacognition, retrieval, concept mapping, setting learning goals) that were not included. Also, there is little real-settings evidence regarding what works best for long-term retention in medical students.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was carried out in a sample of 155 of second and third-year students of the Degree in Medicine at Universidad de Navarra in September 2020. The aim was to evaluate the impact the use of different learning techniques had on academic performance of undergraduate medical students, assessing up to three months of retention. A subgroup analysis was performed based on learning approach, spacing of the learning sessions, and academic results.
Results: Rereading, highlighting, and summarisation were the most known and used techniques among medical students, with detrimental effects on academic outcomes. Metacognition was the most effective technique, but up to 92% of the students didn't know what it was. No single learning technique seemed to improve results in below-average students.
Conclusions: University curricula should promote the use of more efficient techniques, particularly metacognition, to help students become lifelong learners. More studies are needed to confirm these findings. Below-average students remain a challenging population.