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Physiotherapy and Memory / Recall Difficulties

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Preparing for a Clinical Placement

Students with memory and recall difficulties may be worried about finding their way to the placement setting and whilst on site. Such students may benefit from the arrangement of an orientation session, including the issue of a map beforehand. A tutor or clinician could walk the student(s) through the environment identifying significant places and people and their roles/functions. The student should be given the opportunity to practice entering number codes on doors as some people find it easier to remember the tactile pattern rather than the number alone.

Some students may experience difficulty with instant recall which may result in them being able to perform practically but unable to give immediate verbal feedback during teaching sessions. It can be helpful to provide a prompt sheet that the student can use to aid reflection prior to giving feedback. This could include questions such as 'What did you do first - why?' and 'How did you decide on your next question/technique?'

This information has been taken from: The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. CSP Guidance: Support Disabled Physiotherapy Students on Clinical Placement.

Improving Memory for Medical Terms and Applications

Medicine is one of the most memory challenging courses any student can face, but it is rare that techniques for improving memory appear in the curriculum. Students need to develop skills in sifting large amounts of information for key concepts and then link these to practical applications. Once learned, this information needs to be recalled quickly.

Through memory exercises on multiple subjects, psychologists have identified key attributes that let a person's editor know when information should be memorable. Information that is repeated, funny, unusual, interactive, sensory, and/or shocking is more likely to remain with us, and the more of these criteria that are present, the more likely it is that an item will be remembered.

Association of items (grouping) and conversion of abstract items to concrete concepts can improve recall. E.g. to remember the drug name Edrophonium, each syllable can be converted into a concrete image such as edge, a row boat and a pair of head phones. These can then be associated by imagining a story where you are leaning over the edge of a rowboat looking for your headphones which fell into the water. This theme can then be further expanded to include side effects (e.g. pupils narrowing as you look into the water), indications (you dropped the headphones in because you felt weak), etc.

Creating such associations may appear tedious, but in reality, forming links or making ideas amusing or unusual can be done very quickly and is likely to be successful for long-term memory. In addition, these creative skits will gradually be discarded with time as memories are consolidated through regular use.

Another practical example is how to remember the symptoms of a disease - after seeing a patient; one should study the condition as soon as possible, remembering the features observed and imagining those that were not present, linking them together. This associative chain will make symptomatology easier to remember.

Paired Associate Learning

Paired Associate Learning (PAL), or flash cards, is a good strategy to use when a subject requires the memorisation and understanding of large amounts of factual material such as various vocabulary words, terms and definitions.

PAL involves the pairing or connection made by the student between a known or unknown stimulus and a known or unknown response. For example, in Economics, the word for "buyer" is consumer. Buyer is the known stimulus that must be linked to the unknown vocabulary word, consumer. Often both the stimulus and the response are unknown. For example, in art history, students must learn what the word chiaroscuro means. Since chiaroscuro is a word most students have never encountered, both the word (stimulus) and its definition (response) must be learned. The use of Paired Associate (PA) cards is an efficient and effective method of learning this sort of factual material.

The process of using PA cards involves two steps:

  • The development of cards according to your personal learning style.
  • The use of the cards over a period of time for practice and rehearsal.
How to Develop Cards

Don't be discouraged if your first response from the student to the suggestion of making PA cards is a negative one. Many students already feel overloaded by all the demands of Higher Education courses, and they are hesitant to make a commitment to learning a strategy that involves extra work. The use of PAL does require students to prepare cards throughout the semester rather than cramming all of the studying into the night before an exam. On the other hand, students who use PA cards may suffer from far less stress and anxiety before exams because they feel better prepared and more confident.Students should be encouraged to make cards that are based on their individual learning strengths and weaknesses. For example, auditory learners might develop cards that rhyme ~ the stimulus and the response, visual learners may prefer to use drawings to represent information.

Once the students have developed a style for card making, they should find that they are able to produce effective cards rapidly. They may also find that making cards also gives them proof of studying and a feeling that they are making real progress with their learning.

Using PA Cards to Learn

The second step of PAL is learning the material on the cards. Once the student has developed a group of cards, they can use them to quiz themselves on a regular basis by looking only at one side of the card and trying to remember the proper response. Alternatively, the students can look at the response and try to recall the stimulus.

Last modified 2008-06-13 11:33 AM

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