Geoffrey R. Norman
Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Dimensions of Clinical Expertise
Tier 1 - 2001-01-01
905-525-9140 ext. 22119
The psychology of clinical reasoning
The way medical students are taught and how they diagnose illness. The use of computers in teaching. Education of healthcare professionals
How Doctors Learn-Assisting Diagnoses
Geoff Norman's research has already demonstrated that conventional approaches to education may be more effective than depending on cutting-edge technology.
In a world of newer, faster, better, how is Norman making his case for the technology of yesterday? Case in point. Medical students learning anatomy are increasingly taught through the use of computer images. To learn the structure of the hand, for example, they are shown computer images in unusual positions, through multiple rotating views. Norman's research is showing that this doesn't always produce the best results.
His work has determined that students who had seen multiple rotating views of a hand had no advantage over students who had been shown the traditional front and rear views of the hand-the type of views that are displayed in traditional photographs or drawings. This new approach actually caused a special problem for students with poor spatial ability who were handicapped by their need to mentally adjust the rotating views they'd seen to one-dimensional images. When students have had the opportunity to control the way they see the anatomy, they have spent most of their time looking at traditional front and rear views.
Norman believes technology is neither the problem nor the solution. Instead, he thinks researchers need to understand more about the strengths and limitations of the way people think, so we can better capitalize on the advantages of technology. The challenge is to develop new ways of delivering knowledge, based on technology, but derived from an understanding of the way we think and learn.
Delivering new information is not enough if it isn't put into practice. This chair at McMaster University will help Norman and his colleagues understand the psychology that guides the way people assimilate and apply new information. This approach is critical for public policy and the training and education of health-care professionals. It will allow Canada to make the most of the discoveries our talented researchers are uncovering. And with the vast access to information that the Internet and other new technologies are supplying, nothing could be more beneficial than understanding how to ensure useful information is incorporated into professional training.