gms | German Medical Science

13. Grazer Konferenz – Teaching Medicine – an Interprofessional Agenda

24. - 26.09.2009, Innsbruck, Österreich

How do students learn from powerpoint-slide handouts? Qualitative analysis of a common phenomenon.


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  • corresponding author Wolfgang M. Prodinger - Medizinische Universität Innsbruck, Department Hygiene und Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Innsbruck, Austria
  • author Elisabeth Wickenhauser - Medizinische Universität Innsbruck, Department Hygiene und Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Innsbruck, Austria

13. Grazer Konferenz - Qualität der Lehre: Teaching Medicine – an Interprofessional Agenda. Innsbruck, Österreich, 24.-26.09.2009. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2009. Doc09grako21

doi: 10.3205/09grako21, urn:nbn:de:0183-09grako215

Published: December 14, 2009

© 2009 Prodinger et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Research Question: In lectures with Powerpoint-presentations (PPP) and thereafter during exam preparation, lecture-slide handouts (here termed “lechos”) have become a frequently encountered learning aid. A clear understanding of how students actually learn with lechos is missing, however. A qualitative design was chosen to answer the research question of this study: how do medical students learn from lechos? Grounded theory was selected as the conceptual framework.

Methods: Focus-group discussions (FG) with medical students were employed for data acquisition. Participants were eligible, if they ever had taken a summative, integrated end-of-year exam at the study place and gave their informed consent. Four FG with 25 students (19 women, 6 men) were run by a student colleague, taped, and transcribed by the investigator. The data were analysed with ATLAS.ti.

Results: “Learning of delineated knowledge with lechos” was chosen as the core category. Several subcategories related to the core-category were defined. The availability of lechos (subcategory “Putting lechos online”) was found as the causative condition for learning with lechos. In the local context, this constitutes a pivotal power issue as students depend on their lecturers in this regard. “Representing relevance (for exams)” summarizes relevant concepts of values that students hold: the primacy of lectures for knowledge transfer, the exclusive position of lechos for informally defining the syllabus in the study place, and the emphasis that comes from the teacher´s making his point in lectures. This category was particularly important in the local curriculum reform context. “Didactical knowledge” of lecturers comprises concepts of layout-skills, elocution, and the teacher´s understanding of how students go about lechos. “Better understanding in lectures” explains how memory, arousal, and motivation, ideally become activated by use of lechos in lectures. Two learning strategies regarding exam preparation prevailed: “Using lecho as orientation guide” (e.g. for textbook studies) and “Transforming lechos” on the way to composing individual “executive summaries”. Older and younger students tended to use these strategies dierently.

Conclusions: Although motivated students may have been overrepresented in the FG, the cliché of lechos as a mere substitute for attending to lectures was not apparent. Nevertheless, “Pure lecho learning” appears as a category that requires more and specific sampling. Lechos appear to function as a hybrid of note-taking and handout under specific (powerpoint) conditions. The properties and conditions of learning with lechos described here appear as general traits, whose expression is likely to differ according to context, particularly curriculum. It will be interesting to compare the characteristic of lecho-learning in such different contexts.