Translating learning principles into practice: a new strategy for learning clinical skills


I. Rolfe Level 5, Clinical Sciences Building, Mater Hospital, Waratah, NSW 2298, Australia.



There are data to suggest that medical school may not adequately prepare doctors for practice and that there are deficiencies in undergraduate teaching of skills in history taking, physical examination, diagnosis and management (clinical skills). There is a need to re-evaluate methods by which we can teach clinical skills effectively. This aim of this review was to describe the literature concerning the important principles underpinning effective clinical learning. Subsequently a structured learning tool and teaching process was developed in order to support these principles.


The principles of effective clinical learning were derived after a search of the medical education and relevant behavioural science literature. Consequently, a structured learning tool and teaching process was developed in order to potentiate the translation of these principles into practice for medical school training in clinical skills.


Ten principles were derived from the 68 articles referred to in this review. These were: making active decisions, an individual focus to learning, gaining experience, feedback to the learner, reciprocal learning, holistic care, relevant learning, feasibility, cost efficiency and mentoring. A process for history taking, physical examination and management plan was developed for medical students which incorporated these principles.


Relevant literature can provide the foundations for teaching and learning methods in medical education. We plan to trial this method and evaluate the impact on student learning outcomes.