Application over recall

Craft units of instruction and assessments that emphasize application rather than recall.


Your Medical Affairs team needs assistance in applying knowledge in various situations.

Performance Differences

It may be key to the organizational strategy to share the MOA with KOLs in the field.

You assume that the MSL does that at each opportunity.

Do they?

How well do they share the MOA with various audiences?

What would you expect them to modify from the narrative if they spoke to a specialist versus an Allied Health Professional? A movement disorder specialist versus a neurologist? A dermatologist versus an internist?


Don’t make assumptions about your team’s ability to use the information provided.

Some individuals may perform perfectly without guidance, but most of your team would prefer a little direction.

What is good?

What is great?

What are common mistakes they should avoid?

Training Utilization

Training content that provides support in the flow of work increases utilization and engagement.

Learners should be happy to access content that supports their needs.

If training is always theoretical and detached from the day-to-day role, how much do they value the content?

Here is an informal evaluation – When training is assigned, how quickly do the learners engage?

Do they wait until the last day before it’s due?

Wait for their manager to ask them to complete the training?

Clarity of Purpose

If the training does not clarify how the content is useful in their VUCA life, why would they prioritize the training content?

Why would they use it?

If you push content but never discuss the application, your learners often don’t connect the dots.

You understand the context (“the why”) of the training, but do they?

Knowledge Assessments

A clear example of where you can make an immediate change is in knowledge assessments.

Are MSLs asked to apply information in a realistic scenario or asked to recall a fact from the eLearning module?

Consider a standard multiple-choice question:

Tirzepatide combines ____ and ____ into a single formulation. Answer: Ozempic/Rybelsus and Trulicity

Compare to an application question:

A physician is consulting with a newly diagnosed diabetes patient with early-stage Type 2 diabetes. The physician is considering a diabetes-specific treatment for the patient. The physician wants to see the patient lose bodyweight and observe a blood sugar drop by 2% or more (as measured by A1C). Based on this patient’s family history, it will be difficult to manage the patient. If the physician used Tirzepatide (presume it has been approved), what rationale would support that decision?

a. The drug is new on the market and improves the medical outcomes from older drugs like Ozempic and Trulicity.

b. The drug increases GIP and GLP-1 levels, thus providing a unique dual mechanism of action to target the underlying disease process.

c. The drug has an FDA indication for treating patients with unmanageable glucose levels in their bloodstream.

d. The drug safety profile is similar to that seen with other GLP-1 drugs on the market, and most patients have mild to moderate adverse events – if any.

Answer: B

Feedback: Tirzepatide combines two mechanisms into one drug: It dials up GIP in addition to GLP-1, the target of well-known diabetes meds like Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide, sold as Ozempic and Rybelsus, and Lilly’s dulaglutide, sold as Trulicity. The combination of mechanisms has provided evidence of great improvements in body weight and blood sugar.

Allow your learners to show you how they think and make decisions based on a set of information.

Proven Value for Medical Affairs

It is not easy to switch the focus to application measures when training your MSL field team.

Therefore, prioritize content to review and update.

Consider outsourcing the task to an established training team that focuses on medical affairs.

Over time, the level of applicability and context will improve across learning assets, and the department will operate at a higher level of excellence.

Contact Us to Develop Your Strategy

If you would like to discuss your team’s situation, please contact us.