The impact of wearing scrubs on contextual learning

Gabrielle Maria Finn, Debra Patten, John Charles McLachlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Godden and Baddeley ( 1975 ) suggested strong contextual influence on recall, suggesting learning in an educational context might not transfer well to practice.AIM: To explore the impact of an authentic context (wearing hospital scrubs) on learning and recall.METHODS: 82 first year medical students sat a pre-test on renal gross anatomy and imaging, to establish prior knowledge, wearing their own clothes. Students wore either scrubs or their own clothes for the first teaching session on renal gross anatomy. A mid-test on this topic was completed immediately after the teaching session. Students then changed into opposite clothing and attended a self-directed session on renal imaging. An imaging specific mid-test was completed. 5 weeks later students completed two post-tests (gross anatomy and imaging) in their own clothes. Tests were online.RESULTS: Data were analysed using paired t-tests. Results showed no significant difference between test performance immediately after the teaching session, but a significant improvement (p = 0.04) on recall between groups tested in the same clothing versus testing in different clothing. The effect size of the teaching intervention was 0.27, a 'moderate' effect in teaching terms.CONCLUSIONS: Students examined in the same context as they were taught recalled significantly more information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-384
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Anatomy
  • Clothing
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Education, Medical
  • Great Britain
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Teaching


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