Are Medical Lectures Harmful to the Process of Learning?

J. Willis Hurst, MD


December 11, 2001

In This Article

Additional Errors Made by Lecturers

Many lecturers say little more than can be found in textbooks or journals. Should that occur, some trainees may pay someone to tape-record the lectures and transcribe the material to typewritten pages, rather than attend the lectures themselves. They memorize the material they have purchased the night before the exam and score very well when they take it the next day. The problem is, a month later they remember very little. This decline in memory occurs because they did not use the memorized facts in a thought process. Accordingly, the short memory is happy to release unused information so the brain can register, save, or reject any new abstract information that it later encounters. This of course does not make us any smarter and probably delays the development of a little wisdom.

Should an individual seek to store information in the long memory, he or she must decide whether the abstract signal is worth remembering, then use it frequently or link it to a stored memory that is used frequently.

Unfortunately, some lecturers do not understand the information-memory-thinking-learning process and believe they are teaching when they speak. Should they believe they are teaching, I suggest they ask members of the audience some questions about the lecture that prompted the standing ovation. The questions should be asked 2 weeks after the lecture. I have done that following my own lectures and, hearing the verdict, was forced to take my wounded ego home and cry.