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BMC Med Educ. 2009; 9: 4.
Published online 2009 January 13. doi:  10.1186/1472-6920-9-4
PMCID: PMC2632655

Puzzle based teaching versus traditional instruction in electrocardiogram interpretation for medical students – a pilot study

Abstract

Background

Most medical professionals are expected to possess basic electrocardiogram (EKG) interpretation skills. But, published data suggests that residents' and physicians' EKG interpretation skills are suboptimal. Learning styles differ among medical students; individualization of teaching methods has been shown to be viable and may result in improved learning. Puzzles have been shown to facilitate learning in a relaxed environment. The objective of this study was to assess efficacy of teaching puzzle in EKG interpretation skills among medical students.

Methods

This is a reader blinded crossover trial. Third year medical students from College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University participated in this study. Two groups (n = 9) received two traditional EKG interpretation skills lectures followed by a standardized exam and two extra sessions with the teaching puzzle and a different exam. Two other groups (n = 6) received identical courses and exams with the puzzle session first followed by the traditional teaching. EKG interpretation scores on final test were used as main outcome measure.

Results

The average score after only traditional teaching was 4.07 ± 2.08 while after only the puzzle session was 4.04 ± 2.36 (p = 0.97). The average improvement after the traditional session was followed up with a puzzle session was 2.53 ± 1.94 while the average improvement after the puzzle session was followed with the traditional session was 2.08 ± 1.73 (p = 0.67). The final EKG exam score for this cohort (n = 15) was 84.1 compared to 86.6 (p = 0.22) for a comparable sample of medical students (n = 15) at a different campus.

Conclusion

Teaching EKG interpretation with puzzles is comparable to traditional teaching and may be particularly useful for certain subgroups of students. Puzzle session are more interactive and relaxing, and warrant further investigations on larger scale.


Articles from BMC Medical Education are provided here courtesy of BioMed Central