, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 305-310
Date: 14 Jun 2012

If you teach them, they will learn: why medical education needs comparative effectiveness research

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If you teach a medical student, can they learn? The answer may seem self-evident. After all, undergraduates don’t make it into medical school without demonstrating a remarkable capacity to learn and perform well on tests. So asking if medical students (or other health professionals and students) are capable of learning should be a superfluous question. Yet education researchers seem compelled to repeatedly ask this question. And surprisingly (or not), they repeatedly come up with the same answer.

Figure 1 shows the results of over 750 studies, summarized from 4 separate meta-analyses (Cook et al. 2010a, 2008b, 2011a, McGaghie et al. 2011), comparing various forms of training with no intervention. For example, a meta-analysis of Internet-based education found 126 studies comparing training with no intervention (either a single-group pretest–posttest study, or a no-intervention comparison group; Cook et al. 2008b). Only 2 studies failed to favor the training group for outcomes of knowledg