A comparison of systematic instruction, error-based learning and trial and error to train the use of smartphone memory apps after acquired brain injury: A three-armed phase II randomised controlled trial study protocol

Diana Ramirez-Hernandez, Renerus J. Stolwyk, Tamara Ownsworth, Dana Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background:The uptake of smartphones as external compensatory memory aids following an acquired brain injury (ABI) in rehabilitation settings is low. Potential reasons for this include professionals not having evidence-based guidelines regarding the best methods to train smartphone use and prospective users not being familiar with technology and/or having memory and learning difficulties. This paper describes the protocol of a study that aims to compare the efficacy of three training methods (Systematic Instruction, Error-based Learning and Trial-and-Error) for training the use of a smartphone reminder app, in people with ABI presenting with memory complaints.Methods/Design:This is a three-armed, assessor-blinded, Phase II randomised controlled trial. The estimated sample size is 51 participants aged >18 years, who are equally randomised to one of the three training groups. They are seen across four sessions: one to conduct baseline measures; one for training the use of an app and two for follow-up assessments (1- and 6-weeks post-training). The main outcome measure is proficiency of performance in tasks with the trained app. Secondary outcomes include generalisation of skills to other apps, number of errors committed while attempting the tasks, frequency of smartphone usage in general and as a memory aid and confidence in smartphone use and memory self-efficacy. Outcome measures are collected by an independent blinded assessor. Proficiency of performance, generalisation of skills and error commission are measured immediately post-training and at the two follow-up sessions. The other secondary measures are taken pre-intervention and at the two follow-up sessions.Discussion:This study will provide initial evidence regarding the efficacy of three different methods to train ABI survivors with memory difficulties in how to use smartphone apps as compensatory memory aids. The results could inform a larger Phase III trial and advance knowledge concerning the advantages or disadvantages of using error-reducing and trial-and-error techniques. Further, the findings could determine the potential of error-based learning as an emerging training method for people with memory impairment within rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-232
Number of pages16
JournalBrain Impairment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • Brain injury
  • memory rehabilitation
  • skills training
  • smartphone use

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