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Desirable Difficulty: Theory and application of intentionally-challenging learning

Nelson, Adin; Eliasz, Kinga L
CONTEXT/BACKGROUND:Health professions trainees must acquire a vast amount of clinical knowledge and skills, and a deliberate instructional design approach is needed to provide trainees with effective learning strategies. One powerful yet counterintuitive strategy that facilitates long-term learning is incorporating intentional difficulties during the learning process. Difficulties that require more effort from learners may impede short-term learning but are ultimately beneficial for long-term learning and are therefore termed, Desirable Difficulties. OBJECTIVES/OBJECTIVE:In this cross-cutting edge paper, we describe the Desirable Difficulty effect from three theoretical perspectives originating in different fields, discuss common evidence-based Desirable Difficulty strategies used in Health Professions Education, and explore emerging research that could further optimize Desirable Difficulty-enhanced learning for health professions trainees. METHODS:We synthesize theory and research from psychology, cognitive science, and health professions education literatures to further the understanding and application of Desirable Difficulties. We introduce three theoretical perspectives that provide a comprehensive overview of the theoretical underpinnings of the Desirable Difficulty effect: New Theory of Disuse, Challenge Point Framework, and Cognitive Load Theory. We then illustrate how three common Desirable Difficulty strategies in medical education research -- retrieval practice, spaced practice, and interleaved practice -- can be understood through these theoretical lenses. Finally, we provide relevant examples from the literature and explore emerging research in this area. CONCLUSIONS:This paper summarizes the theory and empirical research on Desirable Difficulties during the learning process, from explaining what they are and why they may be effective to how they have been applied in different contexts. We argue that providing educators and trainees with a comprehensive theoretical and applied understanding of Desirable Difficulty will promote deliberate instructional design decisions and lead to more effective learning.
PMID: 35950522
ISSN: 1365-2923
CID: 5287062

Viewing Readiness-for-Residency through Binoculars: Mapping Competency-Based Assessments to the AAMC's 13 Core Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs)

Eliasz, Kinga L; Nick, Michael W; Zabar, Sondra; Buckvar-Keltz, Lynn; Ng, Grace M; Riles, Thomas S; Kalet, Adina L
PMID: 35668557
ISSN: 1532-8015
CID: 5283072

Combining desirable difficulty learning strategies to address the amount-to-learn vs. time-to-learn imbalance in residency training

Nelson, Adin; Eliasz, Kinga L
PURPOSE/UNASSIGNED:Residents have limited time and much to learn. Mounting evidence shows that Desirable Difficulty (DD) learning strategies can ease that imbalance, but few studies have specifically studied combinations of these strategies. METHODS/UNASSIGNED:We tested two different combinations of DD strategies: a double combination of distributed practice and retrieval practice and a triple combination additionally including interleaved practice. We compared residents' annual In-Training Exam (ITE) scores and graduates' board certification performance between both DD curricula and a historical baseline. RESULTS/UNASSIGNED: = 0.03). There were no significant changes in graduates' board performance between any of the curricula. CONCLUSIONS/UNASSIGNED:difficulty into detrimental overwhelming difficulty. Further research should apply this framework in larger and more diverse settings to clarify how these DD strategies can be optimally used to enhance residents' learning.
PMID: 35430933
ISSN: 1466-187x
CID: 5230112

A Preliminary Evaluation of Students' Learning and Performance Outcomes in an Accelerated 3-Year MD Pathway Program

Cangiarella, Joan; Eliasz, Kinga; Kalet, Adina; Cohen, Elisabeth; Abramson, Steven; Gillespie, Colleen
Background/UNASSIGNED:Little outcome data exist on 3-year MD (3YMD) programs to guide residency program directors (PDs) in deciding whether to select these graduates for their programs. Objective/UNASSIGNED:To compare performance outcomes of 3YMD and 4-year MD (4YMD) students at New York University Grossman School of Medicine. Methods/UNASSIGNED:In 2020, using the Kirkpatrick 4-level evaluation model, outcomes from 3 graduating cohorts of 3YMD students (2016-2018) were compared with the 4YMD counterparts. Results/UNASSIGNED:=.03), other metrics and overall intern ratings did not differ by pathway. Conclusions/UNASSIGNED:Exploratory findings from a single institution suggest that 3YMD students performed similarly to 4YMD students in medical school and the first year of residency.
PMID: 35222827
ISSN: 1949-8357
CID: 5174042

The Transition From Medical Student to Resident: A Qualitative Study of New Residents' Perspectives

Chang, Lucy Y; Eliasz, Kinga L; Cacciatore, Danielle T; Winkel, Abigail Ford
PURPOSE/OBJECTIVE:To understand the learner's perspective on the transition from medical school to residency and to develop a conceptual model for how learners experience the transition from student to resident. METHOD/METHODS:This prospective qualitative study explored the experience of first-year residents using semi-structured, one-on-one telephone interviews. Ten first-year residents who participated in the Transition to Residency elective as fourth-year students at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine in April 2018 participated from December 2018-April 2019. Using a 3-phase coding process and grounded theory methodology, the authors identified categories, which they organized into broader themes across interview transcripts and used to develop a conceptual model. RESULTS:From the perspective of new residents, developing professional identity is the core construct of the transition experience. The residents focused on individual aspects of the experience-professional identity, self-awareness, professional growth, approach to learning, and personal balance-and external aspects-context of learning, professional relationships, and challenges in the context of their new role. Across these 8 categories, 5 broader themes emerged to describe an abrupt change in educational environment, an immersive experience of learning as a resident, ambivalence and tensions around the new role, navigation of professional relationships, and balance and integration of working in medicine with personal lives and goals. A conceptual model illustrates this phenomenon as a cell where professional identity and growth (the nucleus) is surrounded by interactions with patients and other members of the medical team (in the cytoplasm) that create a substrate for learning and development. CONCLUSIONS:This study suggests that being immersed in the residency experience is how medical students transition to resident physicians. Educational interventions that allow learners to acclimate to the experience of being a doctor through gradual exposure to authentic interactions have the potential to enhance development and bridge the abrupt transition.
PMID: 32349016
ISSN: 1938-808x
CID: 4412472

Theory-guided teaching: Implementation of a clinical reasoning curriculum in residents

Schaye, Verity; Eliasz, Kinga L; Janjigian, Michael; Stern, David T
Introduction: Educators have theorized that interventions grounded in dual process theory (DPT) and script theory (ST) may improve the diagnostic reasoning process of physicians but little empirical evidence exists. Methods: In this quasi-experimental study, we assessed the impact of a clinical reasoning (CR) curriculum grounded in DPT and ST on medicine residents participating in one of three groups during a 6-month period: no, partial, or full intervention. Residents completed the diagnostic thinking inventory (DTI) at baseline and 6 months. At 6 months, participants also completed a post-survey assessing application of concepts to cases. Results: There was a significant difference between groups in application of concepts (no intervention 1.6 (0.65) compared to partial 2.3 (0.81) and full 2.2 (0.91), p = 0.05), as well as describing cases in problem representation format (no intervention 1.2 (0.38) and partial 1.5 (0.55) compared to full 2.1 (0.93), p = 0.004). There was no significant difference in change in DTI scores (no intervention 7.0 (16.3), partial 8.8 (9.8), full 7.8 (12.0)). Conclusions: Residents who participated in a CR curriculum grounded in DPT and ST were effective in applying principles of CR in cases from their practice. To our knowledge, this is the first workplace-based CR educational intervention study showing differences in the reasoning process residents apply to patients.
PMID: 31287343
ISSN: 1466-187x
CID: 3976532

Standards from the start: An experiential faculty orientation to introduce institutional expectations around communication and patient safety [Meeting Abstract]

Zabar, S; McCrickard, M; Eliasz, K; Cooke, D; Hochman, K A; Wallach, A B
Background: Newly recruited clinicians have heterogeneous Backgrounds and experiences and need a substantive introduction to their new institution's patient communication expectations and safety culture and standards for clinician performance. We describe a unique onboarding program designed to ensure that newly hired clinicians receive actionable, behaviorally specific feedback from the patients' perspective to support a satisfying transition to the new work environment, enhance patient experience and reduce the need to punitively react to complaints once they have started.
Method(s): During the 2-hour onboarding, participants complete 3, 10-minute Objective Structured Clinical Exam cases designed to assess how they address a medical error, manage the patient's discharge goals of care, and respond to an impaired learner. During each encounter, participants interact with highly trained Standardized Patients (SPs) or Standardized Learners (SLs) who use behaviorally-anchored checklists to evaluate provider performance on communication and case-specific skills. Following each encounter, participants complete a self-assessment while the SPs/SLs complete a behavior-specific checklist, after which the two discuss the encounter and the SL/SP provides confidential and actionable feedback. At the end, participants are encouraged to set individual learning goals to implement in their daily work, complete a program evaluation, and engage in a debrief with experienced facilitators. Participants also receive their SP checklists in addition to an institutional guide containing relevant resources and contacts.
Result(s): Over 2 years, 57 faculty members representing 6 clinical sites participated in the onboarding program. They are heterogeneous with respect to general and case specific performance on these SP/SL cases. For example, 86% adequately elicited the SP/SLs story during the discharge case compared to 66% in the other two cases, 77% addressed pain management (a key patient goal), while 44% did not discuss important medication side effects. Participants have universally found this onboarding to be useful and relevant; 98% agreed/strongly agreed that the program was an effective way to reinforce good habits in patient and learner communication, 96% felt it enhanced confidence about their ability to communicate effectively, and 96% felt it reinforced the institutional culture of safety. All 56 participants who completed the evaluation agreed/strongly agreed that the event was engaging and well-designed, and 93% felt it was a good use of their time and would recommend the program.
Conclusion(s): Traditional orientations are not well recalled and do not address knowledge and skills in real-time. Although it requires additional resources, participants are enthusiastic about our low-stakes introduction to the institution's expectations. This program sets high standards and introduces a new model for skills-based onboarding which may lead to measurably improved patient outcomes
ISSN: 1525-1497
CID: 4053162

An experiential faculty orientation to set communication standards

Wallach, Andrew; McCrickard, Mara; Eliasz, Kinga L; Hochman, Katherine
PMID: 30916360
ISSN: 1365-2923
CID: 5230102

Capturing Entrustment: Using an End-of-Training Simulated Workplace to Assess the Entrustment of Near-graduating Medical Students from Multiple Perspectives

Eliasz, Kinga L.; Ark, Tavinder K.; Nick, Michael W.; Ng, Grace M.; Zabar, Sondra; Kalet, Adina L.
ISSN: 2156-8650
CID: 3786242

Clinical reasoning: How should we teach it? [Meeting Abstract]

Schaye, V; Eliasz, K; Janjigian, M; Stern, D
Background: Diagnostic errors have a significant impact on our health care system with cognitive errors contributing to the majority of cases. Educators have theorized that interventions grounded in dual process theory (DPT) may improve the clinical reasoning (CR) process of physicians but little empirical evidence of this theory exists.
Method(s): This study was a quasi-experimental design in the New York University Internal Medicine Residency Program from June 2017- January 2018. We implemented two educational interventions in CR grounded in DPT during this 6-month period, leading to a natural experiment with three groups: no intervention (N = 25), partial intervention (received part 1, N = 23), and full intervention (received part 1 and part 2, N = 23). The educational interventions covered the concepts of DPT, impact of diagnostic errors, and case-based discussions introducing techniques to develop fast and slow thinking. We used the diagnostic thinking inventory (DTI) at baseline (a 41 item self-assessment questionnaire to assess one's approach to CR). At 6 months, participants completed a follow-up DTI and a post-survey assessing their ability to apply concepts to cases as well as workplace experiences of CR teaching. Participants who completed pre- and post-surveys were included in the analysis. Case examples were scored by two independent reviewers blinded to group status (Table). Differences between groups were analyzed using a one-way analysis of variance.
Result(s): Those in the full intervention group reported more teaching of DPT on attending rounds and in conference than the partial intervention and no intervention groups (60% often or always taught compared to 25% and 8.3%, p = 0.002; 73.3% often or always taught compared to 58.3% and 33.3%, p = 0.033, respectively). Otherwise workplace experiences were not significantly different between the groups. There was a significant difference between groups in ability to apply concepts to cases with a medium to large effect size (Table). There was also a significant difference in giving case examples in problem representation format with a large effect size (Table). There was no significant difference in change in DTI scores (mean change in score no intervention 7.0 (SD 16.3), partial intervention 8.8 (SD 9.8), full intervention 7.8 (SD 12.0), p = 0.946).
Conclusion(s): This study provides evidence that interns who participated in a CR curriculum grounded in DPT were effective in applying principles of CR in cases from their own clinical practice and supports the argument that we should be designing educational interventions in CR grounded in DPT. Subsequent studies would need to assess further impact on patient outcomes. (Figure Presented)
ISSN: 2194-802x
CID: 3637772