Not yet a dinosaur: the chalk talk

Adv Physiol Educ. 2021 Mar 1;45(1):61-66. doi: 10.1152/advan.00126.2020.


This article discusses the chalk talk's potential as an active learning method. Although chalk talks are a form of interactive lecture, they have received little attention in the medical education literature compared with other active learning methods such as team-based learning and simulation. One of the authors (C. K. L. Phoon) has used chalk talks to teach congenital heart defects to first- and third-year NYU medical students for many years. His chalk talks have consistently earned among the highest teaching scores, and students have noted their strengths of being more interesting, clear, and tangible than didactic lectures. Using the teacher and student perspectives, we examine the chalk talk's strengths and weaknesses compared with common passive and active learning methods. Chalk talks create a real-time, shared space that facilitates the active learning goals of helping students build, test, and revise mental models (conceptual frameworks). The limited amount of information that can be presented and the ability to solicit and arrange students' ideas on the board lead to the cocreation of valuable conceptual frameworks. Chalk talks require less restructuring of teaching sessions than other active learning methods and are best suited to topics that hinge on understanding of concepts. We advocate for the chalk talk to be reexamined as a promising educational tool given its strengths and the successes that other active learning methods have shown. Furthermore, we provide guidance to help educators deliver chalk talks and discuss future studies that would advance understanding of this powerful teaching tool.

Keywords: active learning; basic science education; chalk talk; clinical education; teaching method.