Beyond Bullet Points in Medical Education

Readers from this blog recognize my interest in presentation skills. Not only the presenting but also the design of slides. Often I’ve written about the boring powerpoint slides often used in lectures with endless bullet points and great deal of text. Several authors have explained why these bullet points won’t teach the audience anything. They have argued why simple design principles in developing the slides does improve the retention of information.

how people learn best from words and pictures, based on the theoretical underpinnings of multimedia learning theory, and, accordingly, to understand how to design effective multimedia instructional messages

Multimedia learning is learning from words and pictures. Words can be seen or heard, pictures can be static (pictures, graphs, charts, maps) or moving as in videos or animations.
Moreover, besides the multimedia design the story behind the information also plays an enormous role in the educational effort.

Do these multimedia design principles also apply for learning from lectures in medical education?

In a pre-test post-test controlled design the multimedia design principles were compared with the traditional design in undergraduate medical students. The group of medical students with the modified design group consisted of 91 students, the traditional design group consisted of 39 medical students. Two versions of the same lecture containing identical factual information were delivered.

The students attending the modified design according to multimedia design principles showed significant greater improvements in retention and total scores on their test.

But what were these multimedia design principles?
You can read the full article of the core publication on applying the science of learning to medical education here. The theory behind these principles are based on the cognitive theory of multimedia learning. You can see the principles applied to the slides in the picture above this post.

The accompanying comment argues that not the design of the slides but the development of these multimedia slides might have impacted more on the positive effect. It’s more about reflecting on general education issues such as good instructional messages, encouragement to prepare one self and familiarize the subject before attending the lecture, establish what students already know about the subject and build on that, don’t make to many slides for the amount of time. To my opinion, teachers spent more effort in optimizing their slides and story when trying to develop multimedia designed lectures. Bullet points especially in Powerpoint are far more easy and quicker to make. What do you think?
Issa, N., Schuller, M., Santacaterina, S., Shapiro, M., Wang, E., Mayer, R., & DaRosa, D. (2011). Applying multimedia design principles enhances learning in medical education Medical Education, 45 (8), 818-826 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.03988.x
Ellaway, R. (2011). Reflecting on multimedia design principles in medical education Medical Education, 45 (8), 766-767 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04064.x