The effect of blocked versus random task practice schedules on the acquisition, retention, and transfer of surgical skills
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Background: How to optimally integrate simulation into a surgical training program is relatively unknown. We studied the effect of varying the practice schedule into either blocked or random patterns (termed contextual interference) on the long-term retention and transfer of surgical skills. Methods: 36 participants were randomized to practice 4 tasks from the Fundamental of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) program using one of three training schedules (blocked, random, no training). Skill was assessed using FLS scoring and hand-motion efficiency scores. Results: A positive benefit of training was seen over the controls for all 4 tasks (p<0.05). No difference was seen between the blocked and random groups in the amount of skill acquired, skill learned, or transfer of skill. Conclusion: The application of contextual interference was unable to differentiate between the blocked and random training groups. This could be due to the complexity of the tasks and/or the inexperience of the learners.