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Interactive discussion versus lecture for learning and retention by medical students

Jennifer Mosher, Craig Gjerde, Michael Wilhelm, Sushant Srinivasan, Scott Hagen


Introduction: Medical educators search for the best methods for teaching medical students. With improvements in technology, it became relatively easy for instructors to supplement lectures with electronic slideshows or to create internet-based presentations with minimal or no instructor interaction. More recently, educators have focused on making teaching more interactive.

Methods: During the third-year paediatric rotation, students were assigned to a slideshow lecture format or an interactive discussion format. Students completed a 20-item multiple-choice knowledge test on three occasions: a baseline test before the teaching session, a second immediately after the teaching session and another 6 months after the teaching session. Test scores and changes in test scores were compared between the groups. Number of student–teacher interactions and student evaluations of the teaching sessions were also compared between groups.

Results: Both groups had a statistically-significant improvement from pre-test to post-test, as well as pre-test to 6-month and post-test to 6-month, but there was no difference between the groups. There were more student interactions in the discussion groups: 26% of students in the lecture groups compared to 77% in the discussion group. Students in the lecture group indicated that they felt more prepared, however significantly more students (74%) in the discussion group stated that they enjoyed this method of teaching compared to 51% of students in the lecture group.

Conclusions: We found that students taught with passive lecture or active discussions had similar test scores despite significantly more interaction in the discussion group, but they seemed to enjoy the discussion method more than the lectures.


interactive; lecture; passive; learning; student

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