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Despite the growing number of patients worldwide with metabolism-related chronic diseases, medical biochemistry education is commonly perceived as focusing on recall of facts irrelevant for patient care. The authors suggest that this focus on rote memorization of pathways creates excessive cognitive load that may interfere with learners’ development of an integrated understanding of metabolic regulation and dysregulation. This cognitive load can be minimized by providing appropriate references during learning and assessment. Biochemistry educators collaborated to develop a medically relevant Pathways of Human Metabolism map (MetMap) that is now being used at many medical schools as a nationally standardized resource during learning and assessments. To assess impact, students from three medical schools were surveyed about its benefits and disadvantages. Responses were obtained from 481 students (84%) and were examined using thematic analysis. Five main themes emerged as perceived benefits of using the MetMap: 1) aids visual and mental organization, 2) promotes deep learning and applied understanding, 3) decreases emphasis on memorization, 4) reduces anxiety on exams, and 5) aids recall. Perceived disadvantages were: 1) fear of under-preparation for licensing exams, 2) overwhelming nature of the map, and 3) reduced motivation for and time spent studying. Results affirm that students perceive use of the MetMap promotes focus on broader metabolic concepts and deep versus surface learning, supporting a shift in cognitive load toward desired goals. Although the long-term impact on learning needs to be further studied, the use of the MetMap represents a step toward open-reference exams that reflect “real world” practice.



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