Attention in Education

Classroom-based teaching sessions represent an important aspect of the postgraduate medical education curriculum, particularly as a variety of changes to the health care system have resulted in fewer clinical learning opportunities for trainees. While it is known that student attention tends to decline when more passive teaching approaches are used and the duration of a task increases, there has been very little research done to examine the role of mind wandering (i.e., task-unrelated thought) in professional education. We are currently using McMaster's LIVELab to conduct the first study to measure mind wandering during teaching sessions in medical education using electroencephalography. Elucidating a 'neural signature' of mind wandering during common educational tasks such as lectures will make a significant contribution to the field of cognitive science and education and help optimize the design and delivery of classroom-based teaching sessions in health professions education.