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Educational theory suggests that lectures may not be the best way to impart knowledge to students. The aim of this study was to compare the use of didactic lectures with that of interactive discussion sessions in undergraduate teaching of orthopaedics and trauma.A total of 77 medical students were assessed in 3 consecutive cohorts. The students were randomised into 2 groups. The first group received a series of 12 formal lectures. The second group covered the same topics in 12 group-discussion sessions with self-directed learning.The students in the interactive discussion group rated the presentation of their teaching more highly than those in the lecture group (P = 0.003). However, there was no difference in their rating of the content of the sessions. The students in the discussion group also performed better on their end-of-placement written test (P = 0.025).We found that interactive teaching styles are more popular than didactic lectures in undergraduate orthopaedic and trauma teaching. We also found some evidence that knowledge retention is better following an interactive teaching style.