Teaching in small portions dispersed over time enhances long-term knowledge retention

Maitreyi Raman, Kevin McLaughlin, Claudio Violato, Alaa Rostom, J. P. Allard, Sylvain Coderre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Background: A primary goal of education is to promote long-term knowledge storage and retrieval. Objective: A prospective interventional study design was used to investigate our research question: Does a dispersed curriculum promote better short- and long-term retention over a massed course? Methods: Participants included 20 gastroenterology residents from the University of Calgary (N=10) and University of Toronto (N=10). Participants completed a baseline test of nutrition knowledge. The nutrition course was imparted to University of Calgary residents for 4 h occurring 1 h weekly over 4 consecutive weeks: dispersed delivery (DD). At the University of Toronto the course was taught in one 4h academic half-day: massed delivery (MD). Post-curriculum tests were administered at 1 week and 3 months to assess knowledge retention. Results: The baseline scores were 46.39±6.14% and 53.75±10.69% in the DD and MD groups, respectively. The 1 week post-test scores for the DD and MD groups were 81.67±8.57%, p<0.001 and 78.75±4.43, p<0.001 which was significantly higher than baseline. The 3-month score was significantly higher in the DD group, but not in the MD group (65.28±9.88%, p=0.02 vs. 58.93±12.06%, p=0.18). The absolute pre-test to 1-week post-test difference was significantly higher at 35.28±7.65% among participants in the DD group compared to 25.0±11.80% in the MD group, p=0.048. Similarly, the absolute pre-test to 3-month post-test difference was significantly higher at 18.9±6.7% among the participants in the DD group, compared to 6.8±11.8% in the MD group, p=0.021. Conclusions: Long-term nutrition knowledge is improved with DD compared with MD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-255
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The primary source of funding was provided by Nestle Nutrition Canada through an unrestricted educational grant.


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