Importance: Challenged to teach increasingly complex content to students, occupational therapy educators need effective instructional approaches. The explosion of multimedia and digital resources in college classrooms suggests that solutions to teaching complicated concepts should leverage educational technology. The multimedia principle of pretraining offers one technique for enriching instruction. The principle of pretraining specifies that learning is more effective when the names and characteristics of main terms are introduced before detailed concepts are presented.

Objective: To compare the efficacy of three approaches to pretraining for increasing student mastery of complex health care content.

Design: Pretest, posttest, delayed posttest (after 2 wk).

Setting: University.

Participants: First-year occupational therapy students (N = 145) at three West Coast universities.

Intervention: One of three 12-min video interventions was administered to participants: traditional enhanced pretraining, static concept map pretraining, or animated concept map pretraining. A subsequent 1-hr live lecture on the complex topic of sensory integration theory expanded on the pretraining foundation and was presented to all students.

Outcomes and Measures: Schematic knowledge, which refers to the web of interrelated information built during the learning process, was measured using a structured word association test.

Results: Participants benefited from all types of pretraining, yet the greatest gains were seen with the static concept map pretraining approach.

Conclusions and Relevance: Pretraining with a static concept map provides effective preparation for complex content learning and preferentially assists learners with low prior knowledge of a topic. Despite its surface sophistication, an animated concept map does not increase pretraining effectiveness and is not recommended.

What This Article Adds: As occupational therapy educators are charged with teaching ever more complex content augmented by the use of educational technology, finding practical strategies to enhance student learning is key. Pretraining using a static (one-page or one-screen) concept map introduces new terminology to the learner while simultaneously providing an overview of a topic. Then, when more complex concepts are introduced, exposure to the topic and prior knowledge have already been primed, thus increasing learning potential.

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