The curriculum: overloaded and too general?


Georges Bordage MD PhD, Bureau de pédagogie médicale, Faculté de médicine, Université Laval, Québec, Canada G1K 7P4.


Summary. Two educational implications of the prototype view of categorization of medical disorders in the long-term memory of medical students are tested: first, that categories are better learned when the initial exposure is through representative examplars, the prototypes as opposed to the whole range of instances; second, that concepts are initially learned at an intermediate level of abstraction (e.g. angina pectoris), corresponding to the prototypes, as opposed to more general levels (e.g. coronary disorders). In a group of third-year medical students (n=42) taken from a previous study, the recall frequencies of undergraduate course materials in eight system courses are inversely related to the number of disorders presented, r(6)=-0.58, P=0.06. The recall frequencies are highest for courses with the highest proportion of intermediate-level materials, r(6)=0.73, P=0.02. The implications of these results for curriculum design are discussed.