Teaching Pre-clinical Medical Students

  • Jeremy B. Richards
  • Richard M. Schwartzstein
Part of the Respiratory Medicine book series (RM)


Teaching pre-clinical (or pre-clerkship) medical students primarily, although not exclusively, occurs in the classroom setting. Understanding foundational principles of cognitive psychology and learning theory can help educators develop effective learning objectives, lesson plans, and educational interventions for students, particularly as flipped classroom and active teaching strategies are increasingly expected when teaching students in the classroom. Familiarity with the dual process theory of cognition, as well as the concepts of working memory, interference, and dissonance, is important for educators to be able to develop effective teaching sessions for pre-clinical students. Topics and concepts in pulmonary and critical care medicine are particularly suitable for active teaching strategies, as working through problems and applying knowledge to answer questions are appropriate for many respiratory and critical care topics. Specific strategies for employing active teaching for pre-clinical students in the large group setting include peer instruction, the use of audience response systems, think-pair-share, team-based learning, concept maps, and case-based collaborative learning. In the small- or medium-sized group setting, problem-based learning and case-based collaborative learning are educational strategies that can be used to promote inquisitiveness, self-directed learning, and critical thinking skills. Encouraging students to develop critical thinking skills to effectively assess and begin to answer questions in the classroom will help them to become better clinicians and physicians.


Undergraduate medical education Medical students Critical thinking Classroom learning Pre-clinical education Inductive reasoning Clinical reasoning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy B. Richards
    • 1
  • Richard M. Schwartzstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard Medical School, Shapiro Institute Center for Education, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterBostonUSA

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