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The Spaced Learning Concept Significantly Improves Acquisition of Laparoscopic Suturing Skills in Students and Residents: A Randomized Control Trial
Introduction Spaced learning consists of blocks with highly condensed content that interrupted by breaks during which distractor activities, such as physical activity, are performed. The concept has been shown to be superior in complex motor skill acquisition like laparoscopic suturing and knot tying. Preliminary studies have solely been conducted with medical students. Therefore, it remained unanswered if the spaced learning concept would also work for pediatric surgery residents.
Materials and Methods The study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of spaced learning, students, and residents were asked to perform four surgeons' square knots on a bowel model within 30 minutes prior and post 3 hours of hands-on training. To examine the long-term skills, the same subjects were asked to perform a comparable, but more complex task 12 months later without receiving training in the meantime. Total time, knot stability, suture accuracy, knot quality, and laparoscopic performance were assessed. Additionally, motivation was accessed by using the questionnaire on current motivation. Differences were calculated using mixed analysis of variance, Mann–Whitney U test, and multivariate analysis of covariance.
Results A total of 20 medical students and 14 residents participated in the study. After randomization, 18 were trained using the spaced learning concept and 16 via conventional methods. Both groups had comparable baseline characteristics and improved significantly after training in all assessed measures. The spaced learning concept improved procedure performance as well as knot quality and stability in both students and residents. However, residents that trained via spaced learning showed significantly better long-term results regarding knot quality and speed in comparison to students. Although anxiety was significantly reduced in both training groups over time, residents were significantly more interested regarding knot tying than students.
Conclusion This study dispels any remaining doubt that the spaced learning concept might only work for medical students. It appears that the spaced learning concept is very suitable for residents in acquiring complex motor skills. It is superior to conventional training, resulting in improved procedural performance as well as knot quality and speed. Hence, tailored training programs should not only be integrated early on in students' curricula but also in surgical training programs.
Received: 02 July 2020
Accepted: 09 October 2020
13 November 2020 (online)
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