[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
April 21, 1989

Learning Theories Implicit in Medical School Lectures

JAMA. 1989;261(15):2244-2245. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420150094044

FACULTY lectures are the primary method for teaching first- and second-year medical students. Lecture styles have an enduring quality of sameness that suggests that the lecturers possess unvarying theories about the value of lectures and the way medical students learn. Medical school faculty rarely have formal training as educators, and four out of five have never had a college-level course in teaching.1 Their lecture styles must be derived from personal experience as students and later as faculty; their approaches to lectures may not have anything in common with those of educational theorists.2,3

Observation suggests that faculty subscribe to different theories of medical student learning. The theories include passive diffusion, receptor, queuing, and vigilance. A few lecturers use a style inconsistent with any underlying theory, apparently believing that learning does not occur during lectures. The underlying learning theories (or lack of theory) implicit in each style are discussed herein.