Harvard Macy Community Blog

Fostering the ongoing connectedness of health professions educators committed to transforming health care delivery and education.

#MedEdPearl March 2020: Learning style preferences across a spectrum of learners

Have you ever encountered a cohort of learners who are all exactly the same? Likely not.Diversity in learning style preferences is increasing! A learning style preference is a desired or default set of cognitive, psychological, and social characteristics that learners exhibit in educational environments. In education, it is sometimes important to introduce desirable difficulty so learners are challenged to make concepts stick.

However, preceptors must be mindful of the myriad interactions with learners and modify their teaching styles accordingly to the learning style preference encountered (2). To illustrate, try this simple activity: Using a pencil, print your first and last name. Now repeat this same task but switch hands. What did you experience? While using your non-dominant hand, you probably experienced increased anxiety and decreased confidence and automaticity, and the task required increased time, concentration, effort, and attention while the quality of your handwriting decreased. By not attending to learning style preferences, it is akin to forcing learners to write with their non-dominant, non-preferred hand (3).

This pearl is a first of three devoted to the application of learning styles research in medical education.

How do you recognize learning style preference in your learners? Share your thoughts on Twitter at #MedEdPearls!

  1. Grasha A. 1994. A Matter of Style: The Teacher as Expert, Formal Authority, Personal Model, Facilitator, and Delegator. College Teaching, 42(4), 142-149.
  1. Vaughn L., Baker R. 2001. Teaching in the medical setting: balancing teaching styles, learning styles and teaching methods. Medical Teacher, 23(6), 610-612.
  1. Grasha I. 2010. The dynamics of one-on-one teaching. College Teaching, 50(4) 139-146.


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Alice Fornari

In support of learnign prefere...

thank you for the BLOG post i am a firm believer in learning styles as a framework to better understand who your learners are in ... Read More
Tuesday, 24 March 2020 12:12 PM
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The Challenge of Giving and Receiving Feedback in the Operating Room

Verbal feedback from senior surgeons represents an essential part of surgical training. As an organizational psychologist who has spent time observing and measuring communication in the operating room (OR), I have observed a great deal of feedback from surgeons to surgical residents, students or more junior team members; most were constructive and expressed respectfully. However, in some cases, I observed feedback that seemed unsupportive and challenging to interpret, such as: “No, no, you should do this like this and not like this [showing how to handle an instrument], as I already told you twice. You are still working like an intern.”

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Growth mindset and medical education: What is the connection?

“Stop!” the attending blurts out as the trainee was about to make a miscalculated maneuver with her surgical instrument. The resident’s stomach flips as she realizes her potential error and readjusts. The attending, likewise, breathes a sigh of relief as the surgery is turned back on course.

As medical educators, we have all experienced high stakes moments like this one. But what is the best way to debrief this encounter? And how do we turn the “fight or flight” inducing stomach-churn into an educational opportunity? Sure, we can give feedback, and we should. However, to the learner, this experience may feel like a “mini-fail” and lead to feelings of guilt or shame, and possibly avoidance of similarly challenging scenarios in the future. Can we redirect a trainee’s learning trajectory just as we redirected the surgery? I think we can, with a secret ingredient called “growth mindset.”

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So I have this consult...Using the consult as a means of teaching and learning

I remember being a first-year physician in training, picking up the phone, and calling consults. I remember calling consults even if I found I did not always understand the question we had for our consultants. It bothered me at the time, but I was so busy, and asking why sometimes seemed like more energy than I could muster.

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Guest — Laura Ballenger

Great reminder!

This is a great reminder to use every interaction with trainees as a teaching opportunity. I am a clinical pediatric fellow and so... Read More
Sunday, 01 March 2020 4:04 PM
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#MedEdPearls February 2020: Psychological Safety and Accountability - The Secret Sauce of Health Professions Education

Think of a time when you were a member of an effective team (that was diverse or geographically dispersed. Why was it effective? How did this make you feel as a team member?

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Guest — Arhaan

Medical Education

"Thank you for sharing such great information. It has help me in finding out more detail about medical education"
Monday, 24 February 2020 7:07 AM
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