In the last decade, research into ways of learning and cognition has dramatically expanded our understanding of effective pedagogical methods. In the sphere of medical training and simulation, doctors and researchers are working hand-in-hand to discover best practices so that the next generation of medical professionals is as well equipped for the real world as possible. Understanding the inner workings of cognition is critical for this to succeed.
For example, according to work from medical fellows out of the University of Illinois at Chicago, the majority of anesthesia residents are currently Millennials. As a group, Millennials preferred learning style differentiates from previous generations. Millennials prefer to work in teams. They crave structure with achievement-oriented goals. They want to be engaged directly, and their own experiences and feelings in the learning and instruction experience matter to them. Finally, these students desire experiential and immersive learning that is both visual and kinesthetic.
In this last case, cognition studies show that experiential and immersive learning isn't simply a generational preference, though. Experiential and immersive learning has a stronger psychosocial influence on cognition. The brain processes the immersive learning experience differently, and the information that is processed is more likely to be recalled at a later time.
To take advantage of this, understanding what is and isn't "experiential learning" is important.
According to educational theorist David Kolb, experiential learning is obtained through action, by doing. The experience of discovery and exploration is a critical element to how we learn. Kolb's concept is usually represented in a four-stage learning cycle.
First, we have a concrete experience, whether new or a revisiting of a previous experience. Next, we reflect and review our experience, and gain special insights from the inconsistencies of our experience and understanding. Third, we make a new abstract conceptualization, either with an entirely new idea or a more accurate modification of a previous idea. Fourth, we apply this new concept in the world around us through active experimentation.
This fourth stage is not a "last stage", because in experiential learning, this cycle can continue anew, as active experimentation provides more concrete experiences. The payoff for all of this is deeper knowledge, stronger skills, and an ability to approach situations dynamically and adapt to novel situations.
Ideally, hands-on training would be easily provided to everyone in residency education, but real-world constraints can be a limiting factor, from financial constraints to the lack of standardization in patient care environments to needing to prioritize patient needs, and more. One valuable solution to this is to take the patient out of the equation with medical simulators, which allow repetitive practice without any risk of patient harm. According to a 2010 study by Singapore General Hospital's Fatimah Lateef, Director of Training and Education, Department of Emergency Medicine, medical simulators have proven to result in improved clinical outcomes and knowledge retention.
Another solution is video based learning. Video does have limitations; for example, a viewer can't interact with an environment nor experience tactile responses. Despite this, it has been shown to be beneficial in helping create pattern recognition and is an excellent means of creating simulated experiences. In addition, it is easily accessible to all. Groups of researchers in China and the Netherlands have found that using video as a learning medium wasn't just cost effective, but also preferred by both students and instructors.
One particularly effective tool is 360-degree spherical video, which simultaneously captures all 360 degrees of a scene and allows a viewer to pan and rotate perspective to watch from different angles. This gives the viewer stronger control over what they see and choose to focus on.
Software, like VALT (Video Audio Learning Tool), can be used as a tool for recording, coding, and debriefing these videos. Simulation recording software can make training more standardized and convenient, able to be watched as many times as needed from anywhere with a digital device, and easily managed by an instructor.
As technology progresses, the means with which medical professionals are trained can also progress. An ever-increasing understanding of best pedagogical practices is making it clearer every year what methods are most effective. From changes in pedagogical techniques to increased use of medical simulators and the use of audio and video medical simulation, today's medical instructors have more options to make their training more effective than ever before.