Eye tracking as a way to illustrate surgical methods and assess students’ learning

Eye tracking provides a clear and accurate picture of where a person’s visual attention is focused. This information can be used to demonstrate the cognitive processes attached to particular tasks, and assess the level of understanding displayed by students during the learning process.

The background

Eye tracking as a valuable resource in medical training

The skillset of an experienced medical practitioner takes years to develop and is the result of time and practice. Many techniques are attached to cognitive processes which are subconscious and instinctive, making them hard to explain. Eye tracking provides a method to not only identify these behaviors, but record and observe them, giving students access to this valuable knowledge. 

"This is the first time we can actually get data on visual human information collection…and we can use this data to optimize training procedures, we can also optimize operative procedures."

Prof. Dr. Christoph Starck, German Heart Center Berlin

The method

How eye tracking can be used as an assessment tool in education

The German Heart Center in Berlin has used eye tracking to examine the cognitive processes of perfusionists, to see how they respond to different stimuli and complications during a procedure, and how they distribute their attention across relevant areas of interest.

Tobii Pro Glasses 2 used for medical stuff training both in real and simulated environments

The conclusion

This knowledge has been used to better articulate the process of operating the heart-lung machine and monitoring the patient's vital signs. Eye tracking has also been used to assess whether students display the correct attention patterns during simulated surgeries, and to make comparative evaluations of stress levels and behavioral patterns during real and simulated procedures.

Eye tracking has been used in a wide range of published research examining medical procedures. If you’re interested in learning more our Zotero Library has a range of resources. Some notable pieces of work include this article examining the gaze patterns of urologists when conducting simulated procedures with varying degrees of difficulty and this piece, which looked at the cognitive load of surgeons performing classical and laparo-endoscopic single-site surgeries. 

For eye tracking research within the medical field, we offer the Pro Glasses 3 wearable eye tracker. Lightweight and unobtrusive, it provides immediate insight into an individual’s visual behavior. 

“When I was training perfusion students in the operating room, it was always difficult to find if they captured things going on in the operating room especially the monitoring ….eye tracking is a great tool to evaluate [that].”

Frank Merkle, Perfusionist & Educator, German Heart Center Berlin