Objective: General guidelines for teaching clinical reasoning have received much attention, despite a paucity of instructional approaches with demonstrated effectiveness. As suggested in a recent experimental study, self-explanation while solving clinical cases may be an effective strategy to foster reasoning in clinical clerks dealing with less familiar cases. However, the mechanisms that mediate this benefit have not been specifically investigated. The aim of this study was to explore the types of knowledge used by students when solving familiar and less familiar clinical cases with self-explanation. Methods: In a previous study, 36 third-year medical students diagnosed familiar and less familiar clinical cases either by engaging in self-explanation or not. Based on an analysis of previously collected data, the present study compared the content of self-explanation protocols generated by seven randomly selected students while solving four familiar and four less familiar cases. In total, 56 verbal protocols (28 familiar and 28 less familiar) were segmented and coded using the following categories: paraphrases, biomedical inferences, clinical inferences, monitoring statements and errors. Results: Students provided more self-explanation segments from less familiar cases (M = 275.29) than from familiar cases (M = 248.71, p = 0.046). They provided significantly more paraphrases (p = 0.001) and made more errors (p = 0.008). A significant interaction was found between familiarity and the type of inferences (biomedical versus clinical, p = 0.016). When self-explaining less familiar cases, students provided significantly more biomedical inferences than familiar cases. Conclusions: Lack of familiarity with a case seems to stimulate medical students to engage in more extensive thinking during self-explanation. Less familiar cases seem to activate students' biomedical knowledge, which in turn helps them to create new links between biomedical and clinical knowledge, and eventually construct a more coherent mental representation of diseases. This may clarify the previously found positive effect that self-explanation has on the diagnosis of unfamiliar cases.

doi.org/10.1111/medu.12253, hdl.handle.net/1765/55549
ERIM Top-Core Articles
Medical Education
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Chamberland, M., Mamede, S., St-Onge, C., Rivard, M.-A., Setrakian, J., Lévesque, A., … Rikers, R. (2013). Students' self-explanations while solving unfamiliar cases: The role of biomedical knowledge. Medical Education, 47(11), 1109–1116. doi:10.1111/medu.12253