By David Griffin
Gross anatomy is a subject which requires various skills from students for comprehension, including good 3D visualisation and visuospatial abilities (Berney et al., 2015; Yammine and Violato, 2015; Peterson and Mlynarczyk, 2016; Cui et al., 2017). This subject, however, is often considered dull (Yammine, 2014) and thus poses a challenge to lecturers (Chang and Molnár, 2015; Vazquez and Riesco, 2005). Students can also be cognitively overloaded by content-driven and difficult subjects if lectures are not appropriately prepared (Hadie et al., 2018a; Hadie et al., 2018b). This issue is exemplified by the fact that many medical students are deemed clinically incompetent as a consequence of their limited anatomical knowledge, causing concern among educators (Singh et al., 2015; Ali et al., 2015).
Whereas various other studies have focused on how the lectures themselves are delivered, providing students with materials to prepare them in advance of the lecture has been less thoroughly explored. Prior preparation for lectures tends to be self-controlled by the students and often ignored by lecturers. As a result, there is a lack of evidence on the impact that a structured activity delivered in advance of the lecture itself can have on student comprehension and attainment.
The aim of this study was to determine the impact a pre-lecture activity could have on students’ comprehension of a gross anatomy lecture. In this case, the pre-lecture activity was viewing an educational video. The authors hypothesised that by viewing a preparatory video, students would attain some knowledge in advance, lessening the cognitive load required during the lecture, as well as the demand for 3D visualisation by the students.
For two consecutive academic years, 254 first year medical students at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) volunteered to take part in this study. The consenting students were separated into two different groups. Both groups were required to watch a video for 15 minutes immediately before attending the lecture. Group A watched the first 15 minutes of an action movie. Group B watched a five-minute educational video on the anatomy of the heart, repeated three times. This included animated 3D diagrams with labels and oral explanations, as well as analogies to describe aspects of the heart and an introduction to clinical applications. The subject of the succeeding lecture attended by all students was the gross anatomy of the heart. After attending the lecture, both groups of students were asked to answer ten multiple choice true-false questions (MTFQs) based on the desired learning outcomes of the lecture.
In both academic years, the students exposed to the educational video (Group B) outperformed their peers who were exposed to an action movie. While in the second year this difference was not statistically significant, it was highly significant in the first. When results were combined for both years, the effect was also statistically significant. This led the authors to conclude that a pre-lecture educational video can positively influence students’ comprehension in the succeeding lecture. These findings aligned with several similar studies. For example, Moravec et al. (2010) found that students performed significantly better in post-lecture tasks when provided with different types of pre-lecture activities; namely a worksheet and a narrated PowerPoint video. Similarly, Stull et al. (2011) discovered that academic achievement was positively associated with an organised pre-lecture activity in the form of an online quiz. Seery and Donnelly (2012) also concluded that a structured pre-lecture task equalised the playing field between students with and without prior knowledge of the taught topic.
This study highlighted the benefits of providing students with pre-lecture learning materials to aid their comprehension during the lecture. In this case, that material consisted of an educational animated video. The authors concluded that students’ improved comprehension, as attested to by their post-lecture task scores, may be due to a freeing of working memory. Much of their working memory would ordinarily be required during the lecture to comprehend new material. However, the prior knowledge gained in the short pre-lecture task reduced demands on this faculty, enabling students to gain more from the lecture as a result.
[Source Paper] Hadie SN, Simok A, Shamsuddin S, Mohammad J, Determining the impact of pre-lecture educational video on comprehension of a difficult gross anatomy lecture,
Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences, Volume 14, Issue 4, 2019, Pages 395-401.
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