The Role of Learning Style in the Changing Landscape of Medical Education: The Canadian Plastic Surgery Experience

Main Article Content

Kaitlin S. Boehm
Connor McGuire
Osama A. Samargandi
Sarah Al Youha
David T. Tang


Objectives: The transition to competency-based education and restraints on trainee work hours necessitates re-evaluation of resident education. The role of learning style in plastic surgery residency training has not been investigated. The objective of this study was to identify the learning styles of plastic surgeons and trainees in Canadian Plastic Surgery programs.

Methods: A cross-sectional electronic survey was distributed to all members of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons and through program directors at Canadian training programs. Basic demographics were captured. The Kolb Learning Style Inventory was used to identify each individual’s learning style (converging, accommodative, assimilative, or divergent). 

Results: There were a total of 98 respondents (15% response rate), including 62 staff plastic surgeons (63%) and 36 trainees (37%). All regions of Canada and age categories were well represented. The most dominant learning styles were convergent (47%) and accommodative (29%). No significant difference in dominant learning styles existed between age groups; while males were more commonly convergent learners, females were accommodative learners.  

Conclusions: The majority of plastic surgery trainees and staff have learning styles that rely heavily on practical application and experiential learning. Accounting for this propensity towards convergent and accommodative learning styles should be incorporated into training programs to maximize efficacy of learning.

Article Details



1. Contessa J, Ciardiello KA, Perlman S. Surgery resident learning styles and academic achievement. Cur Surg. 2005;62(3):344-347.

2. Drew PJ, Cule N, Gough M, et al. Optimal education techniques for basic surgical trainees: Lessons from education theory. J Royal Coll Surg Edinburgh. 1999;44(1):55-56.

3. Kim RH, Gilbert T, Ristig K. The effect of surgical resident learning style preferences on american board of surgery in-training examination scores. J Surg Ed. 2015;72(4):726-731.

4. Mammen JMV, Fischer DR, Anderson A, et al. Learning styles vary among general surgery residents: Analysis of 12 years of data. J Surg Ed. 2007;64(6):386-389.

5. Quillin RC, Cortez AR, Pritts TA, Hanseman DJ, Edwards MJ, Davis BR. Surgical resident learning styles have changed with work hours. J Surg Res. 2015;200(1):39-45.

6. Richard RD, Deegan BF, Klena JC. The learning styles of orthopedic residents, faculty, and applicants at an academic program. J Surg Ed. 2014;71(1):110-118.

7. Reznick RK, MacRae H. Teaching surgical skills - Changes in the wind. N Engl J Med. 2006;355(25):2664-2669.
8. Kissane-Lee NA, Yule S, Pozner CN, Smink DS. Attending Surgeons' Leadership Style in the Operating Room: Comparing Junior Residents' Experiences and Preferences. J Surg Ed. 2016;73(1):40-44.

9. Kayes DC. Internal validity and reliability of Kolb's learning style inventory version 3 (1999). J Bus Psychol. 2005;20(2):249-257.

10. Kolb DA. Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

11. Adesunloye BA, Aladesanmi O, Henriques-Forsythe M, Ivonye C. The preferred learning style among residents and faculty members of an internal medicine residency program. J Nat Med Assc. 2008;100(2):172-177.

12. Engels PT, de Gara C. Learning styles of medical students, general surgery residents, and general surgeons: Implications for surgical education. BMC Med Ed. 2010;10:51.

13. Linn BS, Cohen J, Wirch J, Pratt T, Zeppa R. The relationship of interest in surgery to learning stydles, grades, and residency choice. Soc Scien Med. 1979;13:597-600.

14. Jack MC, Kenkare SB, Saville BR, et al. Improving education under work-hour restrictions: Comparing learning and teaching preferences of faculty, residents, and students. J Surg Ed. 2010;67(5):290-296.
15. Ramsingh D, Alexander B, Le K, Williams W, Canales C, Cannesson M. Comparison of the didactic lecture with the simulation/model approach for the teaching of a novel perioperative ultrasound curriculum to anesthesiology residents. J Clin Anest. 2014;26(6):443-454.

16. Picard M, Curry N, Collins H, Soma L, Hill J. Comparison of High-Fidelity Simulation Versus Didactic Instruction as a Reinforcement Intervention in a Comprehensive Curriculum for Radiology Trainees in Learning Contrast Reaction Management: Does It Matter How We Refresh? Acad Rad. 2015;22(10):1268-1276.

17. Saraswat A, Bach J, Watson WD, Elliott JO, Dominguez EP. A pilot study examining experiential learning vs didactic education of abdominal compartment syndrome. Am J Surg. 2017;214(2):358-364.

18. Boehm KS, Rohrich R, Lalonde DH. Why videos matter so much in plastic surgery today: A complete index of videos in plastic and resonctructive surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery global open. Plast Recon Surg. 2018;141(4):1051-1054.

19. Caulley L, Wadey V, Freeman R. Learning styles of first-year orthopedic surgical residents at one accredited institution. J Surg Ed. 2012;69(2):196-200.

20. Rosen J, Long SA, McGrath DM, Greer S. Simulation in palstic surgery training and education: The path forward. Plast Recon Surg. 2009;123(2):729-738.

21. Gorman PJ, Meier AH, Krummel TM. Computer-assisted training and learning in surgery. Comp Aided Surg. 2000;5(2):120-130.

22. Lee EAL, Wong KW, Fung CC. How does virtual reality enhance learning outcomes? A structural equation modeling approach. Comp Ed. 2010;55(4):1424-1442.

23. Chen JC, Toh SC, Ismail W. Are learning styles relevant to virtual reality? J Res Tech Ed. 2005;38(2):123-141.

24. Kneebone R. Simulation in surgical training: Educational issues and practical implications. Med Ed. 2003;37(3):267-277.