The spacing effect: Improving electrocardiogram interpretation

John M. Cunningham, Melissa Johnson, Troy Kincaid, Wendy Christensen, Jaime Baker, William Turbyfill, Jennifer E. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Accurate electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation is critical for safe patient care, making this skill a necessary competency for medical school graduation. Improved long-term memory retention with repeated exposure to material is one of the most evidenced-based components of adult learning science. This curricular innovation aimed to determine if implementing spaced repetition and retrieval practice using ECG quizzes during the principal clinical year would improve ECG interpretation skills among medical students enrolled in a Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LIC). Approach: The curricular innovation applied the spacing effect and retrieval practice. Cognitive science demonstrates enhanced long-term retention through repeated interval exposure to learned material. Studies of spaced retrieval indicate that memory retention is enhanced through tests involving effortful recall. LIC students in an intervention group were exposed to the spacing effect with periodic ECG quizzes throughout their clinical clerkship year. Evaluation: The results of the 17-item post-test for 140 students were analysed: LIC intervention, N = 54; block control, N = 62; and LIC control, N = 24. The ANOVA test was significant (p < 0.001). Games–Howell post hoc testing showed that the mean score in the LIC intervention group was significantly higher compared with the LIC control group (p < 0.001) and the block control group (p < 0.001). There was no significant difference between the LIC control and block control groups (p = 0.59). Implications: Spaced repetition of material through ECG quizzes improved ECG interpretation skills on an ECG post-test and mitigates the forgetting curve, maintaining student competency in ECG interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13626
JournalClinical Teacher
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Review and Exam Preparation

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