Reading the Electrocardiograph: Paramedics’ Descriptions of their Learning

How to Cite

O’Donnell M, Lawson M. Reading the Electrocardiograph: Paramedics’ Descriptions of their Learning. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2015Jul.15 [cited 2023Feb.2];4(3). Available from:



If we know how students learn to read the electrocardiograph (ECG) then instructors can modify their teaching practices in order to optimize student learning. The aim of the study was to record cognitive functions that paramedics describe when they are learning to read the ECG. Answers were sought to the research question: What activities, strategies and cognitive elements do paramedics describe when they are learning to read and interpret ECGs?


Twelve participants were interviewed. Data were coded into six themes with 51 subcategories. Content analysis was concerned with description, induction, generation, and construction in terms of commonality in how ECG learning occurred.


Students learning were categorized into six themes:

- BASIC LEARNING ACTIVITIES - elementary skills derived from reading, writing, and math.
- TRANSFORMATION OF INFORMATION PROCESSES - comprehension, memorizing, differentiating, and examining against a given criteria and threedimensional mental imagery and visualizations.
- LEARNING INTERACTIONS - activities of learning sourced from other than direct classroom instruction.
- CONTEXT OF LEARNING - informal learning with selected peers.
- SELF-REGULATORY LEARNING EVENTS - taking responsibility for learning.
- AFFECTIVE LEARNING - students’ thinking and feeling about their learning. Conclusion

Paramedics make life-and-death decisions based on actions from their learning. It is imperative that students are given the support to learn, in a manner that is conducive to the way that the say they learn and instructors need to understand how students go about their learning and incorporate these processes into their teaching methods. Each student identified their use of three-dimensional mental visualizations to be a contributing cognitive function, therefore, instructors need to consider incorporating this approach into instructional design as a way to optimize and strengthen students’ learning about ECG interpretations.