Improving teaching, one slide at a time…

“How many slides can I have in my PowerPoint presentation?”

This is one question I get a lot as an educational developer, with a quick follow-up one about what’s the best way to put slides together.

Soon after it was first released in 1987, PowerPoint became both a boon and bane for teaching. (There are other software programs; PowerPoint just has well over 90% of the market). Computer program presentation software is certainly way more convenient than its predecessor overhead projector (and the accompanying slippery stack of slides), but it’s perpetuated some of the previous challenges with ill-conceived overhead transparencies while creating its own new issues.

Like how many slides is too many?

The standard advice is the 10/20/30 rule: 10 slides for a 20-minute presentation with 30-point font. This avoids the too-much issue: too many slides and too much information crowded on a single slide, but it’s simplistic advice that may not address your actual concerns.

I use four guiding questions to think about presentation slides:

  1. How are you going to use them?

  2. How are your learners going to use them?

  3. What else are you going to provide?

  4. Have you addressed the issues? (Accessibility, Copyright, Confidentiality, etc.)

 

How are you going to use them?

For example, are you using your slides as “attention getters” or information notes? Do you need an eye-catching image, or clear bullet points, or both? Are your images essential illustration, or distracting add-ons? If you’re showing a complicated image, is it to show “it’s complicated” or is it for detailed discussion and deeper learning?

How are your learners going to use them?

Take a step back and think about how your slides look projected on the three screens in the teaching theatres. Are your slides overwhelming or illuminating? Are your learners going to take notes on their electronic copy of your slides while you talk? Will these be their primary reference? Are your slides “must use” or “nice to have”?

What else are you going to provide?

Do you provide an electronic copy of your slides, before or after class? Are they complete or are there things omitted in your MEdTech published versions (either for pedagogical or other reasons, see next point!). If you’re using more visual versus text sides, are you providing accompanying notes? Do the students have other resources?

Have you addressed the issues? (Accessibility, Copyright, Confidentiality, etc.)

Issues about accessibility, copyright and confidentiality will vary based on particular circumstances. The best rule for layout is “keep it simple” – many of the built-in templates in programs don’t translate well to the screen and can be impossible to read for some people with particular vision problems. There can be issues of copyright for images – some things can be shown in class, but not saved to our learning management systems, for example. (And we have a copyright specialist here at Queen’s – Mark Swartz – who can help us navigate this). Also, regarding confidentiality, if screenshots of x-rays are used, for example, how is identifying information removed?

 

There are a vast number of resources online and multiple great reference books with tips and techniques for improving your use of presentation software. There is no single school of thought of best practices for teaching with this tool (although there are definitely pitfalls to avoid).

If you’re looking to improve your use of PowerPoint in the classroom, please feel free to get in touch. We can look at what you’re doing now, what your goals are, and talk strategies for changing things up as needed.

Meanwhile, if you have 14 slides for a 20-minute presentation, you’re likely ok. But if you’re planning 200 slides for a 50-minute lecture, chances are, that’s too many. Call me.

Reach me at theresa.suart@queensu.ca

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Don’t skip over getting ready

When I was a teenager, my Dad had a poster in his high school vice-principal office that featured a picture of a bird’s nest with blue eggs in it. The caption read: “most of life is getting ready.”

I really didn’t like that poster because it was all about patience and I was all about getting on with the next thing. I was always about what comes next: finish high school, go to university, get the job.

It took a long time for those lessons in patience to sink in and for me to accept that much of life is getting ready. And a lot of the getting ready is hidden, behind the scenes, like what’s going on in those blue eggs in that poster’s nest.

It’s a lot like how we spend our summers when we’re involved in teaching that follows the traditional academic year cycle (which excludes our clerks and clerkship faculty who learn and teach year-round).

At UG, especially for the upcoming pre-clerkship academic year, we spend a lot of the summer getting ready. The Education Team, Course Directors and teaching faculty are looking at course evaluation reports and looking at where improvements and changes are needed. The Curricular Coordinators are getting everything set in MEdTech so things run smoothly. And a multitude of other behind-the-scenes support team members are quietly getting on with getting ready. While the end results of all this preparation are evident, the tremendous amount of work involved usually isn’t.

For planning purposes, we need to think ahead, look at the big picture and always be thinking of the next thing. But for teaching and learning, being in the moment matters, too. And, sometimes, you’re in the moments that are about getting ready.

Sometimes we dismiss the “getting ready” stage as a holding pattern, as mere waiting. It’s not the “good stuff” or the “important stuff”. But getting ready is every bit as important as what comes next. Without getting ready, the good stuff can’t happen.

Think about the last big celebration you took part in (maybe for a birthday or special holiday). Did it involve presents? Did you take some time to find the perfect gift, picking out wrapping paper and bows, maybe a special card? Did the recipient take a moment to appreciate that effort or tear right in? Maybe you were the recipient. Did you savor the moment, or dive right in? My Mom always insisted we read the card first, how about you? Regardless of slow savoring or exciting unwrapping, it was a special moment, that made the preparation – the getting ready – worth it.

Sometimes getting ready is taking a breather (as we hope our pre-clerkship students are doing with their summer!) or augmenting skills, and sometimes is doing all the necessary preparation to make things run smoothly for the “big” event. It’s important to recognize that, from a pedagogical perspective, this getting ready – either course prep, or “introduction to” instruction – isn’t wasted time, but necessary steps along the way.

So be in the moments of getting ready.

Meanwhile, we’ll get back to work reviewing course evaluation feedback, revising preparatory materials and SGL sessions. Looking at which learning event worked well and which need some tweaking and which need a major overhaul. Are assessments well-mapped to learning objectives? Is the rubric clear or can we improve that? What about annotating those objectives….

(And, as always, if you’re in need of help with any of the above, get in touch. We’re here to help).

 

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This post is about nothing

I discarded quite a few topics for this week’s post as I didn’t want to “waste” a key topic on the “downtime” for many of our faculty and students of the summer break between semesters (excluding all those students and faculty involved in Clerkship, of course).

Sure, I could write about learning objectives, and active learning strategies, or assessment tools and rubrics, but these informational items would likely be missed by quite a few people off on summer pursuits.

And, really, I want you to miss them as anyone’s holiday break (however long or short) should be used to pursue as little as possible. A few years ago, when I was teaching at Loyalist College, I had students ask me what I wanted them to work on over a holiday break. It turns out my colleagues had given several detailed assignments. Firmly believing in the need to relax and recharge, I told them I wanted them to sleep in and eat cookies for breakfast. (I got pretty good instructor evaluations that year; I hope it wasn’t just about the cookies).

So for this post, I thought to myself: “I should write about the benefits of doing nothing”. A short Google search later, I’ve discovered this is hardly a unique idea – and there’s evidence-based research to back up these benefits.

In fact, in a 2014 Forbes article, Manfred Kets De Vries pointed out that “slacking off and setting aside regular periods of ‘doing nothing’ may be the best thing we can do to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination and improve our mental health”.

An Australian blogger drew attention to a study by Bar-Ilan University that demonstrated that daydreaming correlates with performance. “They found a wandering mind does not hamper the ability to accomplish a task, but actually improves it by stimulated a region of the brain responsible for thought-controlling mechanisms.” (Read more about that study here.)

Other research points to relaxing (i.e. doing nothing) being good for your heart, fighting the common cold, maintaining a healthy weight, sleeping better, and contributing to improved mental health.

Pico Iyer, author of The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere wrote of the virtue of doing nothing in a 2014 CCN article. He noted: “It’s an old principle, as old as the Buddha or Marcus Aurelius: We need at times to step away from our lives in order to put them in perspective. Especially if we wish to be productive.”  (Watch his Ted Talk, where he emphasizes the benefits of stillness, here: https://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_where_is_home)

So, the next time I post, I’ll have more tips and tools for your educational toolbox. In the meantime, focus on wellness and, well, doing nothing. You can start with this slide show of Ten Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing.

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The Twelve Roles of Teachers

(This post summarizes key points from AMEE Guide No 20: The good teacher is more than a lecturer–the twelve roles of the teacher by R.M. Harden & Joy Crosby)

In our talk of teaching, we often focus quite narrowly on classroom-based teaching – team-based learning (our SGL) and lecturing – and on clerkship seminars and bedside teaching. By doing so, we can overlook some of the other roles required in medical education.

In fact, there are 12 roles of teachers in medical education and each is worth exploring.

Harden and Crosby (2000) identified these 12 roles based on their analysis of “the tasks expected of the teacher in the design and implementation of a curriculum in one medical school”; a study of “diaries kept by 12 medical students over a three-month period”, which analyzed their comments on teacher roles; and from other literature on the roles of teachers in medical education (p. 336). They then validated the 12 roles they identified using a questionnaire completed by 251 teachers at the University of Dundee Medical School.

Harden and Crosby grouped their 12 roles into six areas of activity (two roles each) and further noted which roles required medical expertise and which teaching expertise and which involved direct student contact, with the remaining with students at a distance to the activity.

How many of these areas of activity and roles do you recognize in your own teaching practice?

Information provider – lecturer, clinical or practical teaching

“The teacher is seen as an expert who is knowledgeable in his or her field, and who conveys that knowledge to students usually by word of mouth,” they note, pointing out in all contexts the teacher selects, organizes and delivers information.” They stress that “The clinical setting, whether in the hospital or in the community, is a powerful context for the transmission, by the clinical teacher, of information directly relevant to the practice of medicine.” (p. 337)

Role model – on-the-job role model; teaching role model

“Students learn by observation and imitation of the clinical teachers they respect. Students learn not just from what their teachers say but from what they do in their clinical practice and the knowledge, skills and attitudes they exhibit,” Harden and Crosby wrote (p. 338). This role modelling extends to classroom-based activities, too:  “The good teacher who is also a doctor can describe… to a class of students, his/her approach to the clinical problem being discussed in a way that captures the importance of the subject and the choices available.” (p. 339)

Facilitator – learning facilitator; mentor

“The introduction of problem-based learning … has highlighted the change in the role of the teacher from one of information provider to one of facilitator. The teacher’s role is not to inform the students but to encourage and facilitate them to learn for themselves using the problem as a focus for the learning.” (p. 339)  Harden and Crosby note that the mentor role, while highly valued “is often misunderstood or ambiguous” (p 339) but suggest “the mentor is usually not the member of staff who is responsible for the teaching or assessment of the student” and that “Mentorship is less about reviewing the student’s performance in a subject or an examination and more about a wider view of issues relating to the student.” (p. 339)

Assessor – student assessor; curriculum evaluator

“The assessment of the student’s competence is one of the most important tasks facing the teacher,” they note. “Examining does represent a distinct and potentially separate role for the teacher,” they added, noting: “It is possible for someone to be an ‘expert teacher’ but not an expert examiner.” (p. 340)

“Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the teaching of courses and curricula is now recognized as an integral part of the educational process. The quality of the teaching and learning process needs to be assessed through student feedback, peer evaluation and assessment of the product of the educational program.” (p. 340).

Planner – Course organizer; curriculum planner

For Harden and Crosby, curriculum planning and organizing courses goes hand-in-hand. The note that “Curriculum planning presents a significant challenge for the teacher and both time and expertise are required if the job is to be undertaken properly” (p. 341) while being an essential first step. This is closely followed by the importance of planning on the individual course level:  “The best curriculum in the world will be ineffective if the courses that comprise it have little or no relationship to the curriculum that is in place. Once the principles that underpin the curriculum of the institution have been agreed, detailed planning is then required at the level of the individual course.” (p. 341).

Resource developer – study guide producer; resource material creator

The increasing importance of the role of resource material creator helps students navigate in increased amount and quality of information available. “With problem-based learning and other student-centred approaches, students are dependent on having appropriate resource material available for use either as individuals or in groups.” (p. 341). The role of curator, through structured study guides, also helps navigate these resources: “Study guides…can be seen as the students’ personal tutor available 24 hours a day and designed to assist the students with their learning. (p. 341).

 

At different times, you may be called upon to fill any or all of these roles. If you’re interested in exploring any of them further, get in touch. I’m here to help you with all aspects of your teaching practice.

 

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Lectures aren’t inherently bad

In a pedagogical quest for active learning, we’ve somehow cast lectures in the role of arch-villain.

I’ve had conversations with faculty about their teaching which have started out with: “I know lectures are bad, but…”

This is definitely the case of a pendulum swinging too far. While research definitely supports active learning as the optimal way for students to retain learning – applying new knowledge either to simulated or real scenarios – the initial learning has to come from somewhere, and lectures are one of these sources.

Because of our focus on improving small group learning/TBL sessions in our curriculum, I can seem to be anti-lecture. The truth is, I’m actually a closet lecture aficionado. I own DVDs and CDs from The Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series and love CBC’s Ideas. And the proliferation of podcasts has fed my love of lectures even more, as podcasts are nothing if not fabulous lectures. And TED Talks, who hasn’t lost a few minutes to those? Really, the world loves a good lecture.

Lectures absolutely have a place in universities in general and in medical education specifically. While we can’t – and don’t want to – return to a curriculum with 100% (or near to it) lectures, we can keep great lectures in our menu of methodologies to provide students with optimal learning experiences.

If you’re planning a lecture, or looking to improve an existing one, here are some things to consider:

Why do you want to do a lecture?

It’s ok if it’s just your first instinct, but think beyond that. Is this the best way to convey your content? How will providing this content in a lecture format enhance students’ learning?

Are you comfortable with the mechanics?

Lecturing is a skill which improves with practice. There are certainly standard “do’s” and don’ts”. For example, Don’t read your own slides; don’t keep your nose down in notes. And the classic: Don’t be boring. If you aren’t comfortable, do you have a plan to improve?

How can you keep things fresh and interesting for an hour or more?

Research on attention habits tell us that after 20 minutes of sustained listening, it’s hard to stay focused. With this in mind, how can you pace you lecture to break things up? Consider things like polls (with our PollEverywhere account), short think-pair-share activities, or other creative ideas. At least one instructor I know shows short topic-related videos and has the class stand up to watch them to get everyone out of their standard sitting positions.

What’s your follow-up plan?

If you think of lectures as content delivery, what’s your plan for students to be able to apply this new knowledge? Does your lecture lead into an application session in your own course or in another one? If you’re not the instructor for the follow-up session, be sure to coordinate with the person who is.

As with all your teaching endeavours, you’re not on your own. Get in touch – I’m here to help!

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Learning style quizzes are fun, but they shouldn’t inform teaching

When I completed my Bachelor of Education in the late 1990s, we spent a fair amount of time on learning styles. We explored Kolb’s styles (assimilator, diverger, accommodator, converger) and the VARK model (Visual, Auditory, Reading, Kinesthetic), and ones that incorporated relational aspects (social, independent, introvert, extrovert) in a quest to enhance our skills as educators to best meet our future learners’ needs.

It was presented as a “keys to success” insight – learn how to teach to each student’s preferred style, learn how to modify your instruction to meet every learner’s need, and all would be good.

From the learner’s perspective: figure out how you best learn, seek out learning experiences like that and voila – educational success.

We’ve heard this so often, from multiple avenues, that many of us accept it as an established principle rather than theories. (Just do a Google or an Amazon search and hundreds of sites and books will pop up).

A typical learning style inventory questionnaire and score sheet.

Human beings certainly have preferences – in learning and in all things. I really enjoy lectures. I like listening to someone else talk about an interesting topic and share knowledge and insights. I’ve had the pleasure of having some terrific history teachers, for example, who made things come alive in their storytelling. I learned a lot.

It was, in fact, an experience with a history course that helped me embrace the learning style message and hold it sacred for many years. I loved history and did really well in my high school courses without, I’ll admit, having to try very hard. Except for the unit on the Napoleonic Wars in Grade 11. I was away that week, at a conference, so instead of being in class for about an hour every day, I had the assigned chapters and the teacher gave me copies of his lecture notes. And I bombed the test. Being an auditory learner explained this. I hadn’t heard Mr. A’s lectures, so I didn’t learn as well. It made me feel better about my barely-passing grade, but was it true?

How did I usually learn history? I’d attend the classes (and take notes), read the assigned chapters, and reread my notes to study for the test. How did I do the unit on the Napoleonic wars? I read the assigned chapters and read my teacher’s notes. I actually spent about 50% less time on the unit than any other history unit that year. And I never took my own notes on that unit. Am I really an auditory learner and therefore didn’t test well on something I had to learn differently, or did I spend less time learning this material? Perhaps if I’d read the assigned chapters twice, or taken my own notes, or something else. Auditory learner doesn’t fully account for all variables.

Granted, I’m an n=1, but there’s an increasing body of research (with larger cohorts) that points to learning styles being a “myth”. Myth or not, there’s evidence that using a preferred learning style doesn’t lead to more or better learning. For example, Hussman and O’Loughlin (2018) found no correlation between learning styles and course outcomes for anatomy students, regardless of whether the students adapted their studying to align with their preferred learning style.

Knoll et al (2017) found that “learning style was associated with subjective aspects of learning but not objective aspects of learning.”

The other message in many of these studies: Context is key. Consider my history/auditory learning example, above. Lecture alone would not have gone over so well in an art history class. I may prefer to learn by listening, but isn’t it better to see the paintings rather than have someone describe them? Likewise, even if all the quizzes tell you that you’re an auditory learner, it’s a good bet that it still makes the most sense to learn about radiology using images. And procedural skills are best learned by actually physically engaging in them.

One on-going challenge of the cult of learning styles is it can become an excuse when students don’t master material (“The class didn’t suit my learning style” or “I need to better address students’ learning styles, how do I do that?”). However, a meta-analysis study by Hattie (2012) looked at 150 factors that affect students’ learning and matching teaching techniques to students’ learning styles had an insignificant effect (slightly above zero) (Hattie, 2012:79).

It’s good to remember that, as physicians, our students will have to learn and perform in a variety of ways (styles): reading, listening to people, looking at images of some sort or at patients when examining them, and use their tactile senses when examining patients, as some examples. Teaching them in a variety of ways, rather than using narrowly-focused learning style criteria, can only help them achieve this.

Key take-away points:

  • There are a variety of ways to learn and to teach and context matters
  • Some things are best taught in a particular way
  • We can have preferences for some learning experiences more than others, but we can learn in multiple ways
  • Your preferred learning style may not improve your learning
  • History lectures are always cool.  (They are, but that’s not relevant to this topic, really).

Note on classroom accommodations: Any discussion of learning styles and learning style research should not be confused or conflated with accommodations for learning disabilities or accommodations for physical disabilities which interfere with learning


My thanks to Dr. Lindsay Davidson, Director of Teaching and Learning, for talking through some of the ideas presented in this post.

References:

Hattie, J, 2012, Visible learning for teachers: maximising impact on learning, London, Routledge

Husmann, P. R. and O’Loughlin, V. D. (2018), Another nail in the coffin for learning styles? Disparities among undergraduate anatomy students’ study strategies, class performance, and reported VARK learning styles. American Association of Anatomists. . doi:10.1002/ase.1777

Knoll, A. R., Otani, H. , Skeel, R. L. and Van Horn, K. R. (2017), Learning style, judgements of learning, and learning of verbal and visual information. Br J Psychol, 108: 544-563. doi:10.1111/bjop.12214


Other cool reading on this topic:

From Frontiers in Psychology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5366351/

From The Atlantic:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/the-myth-of-learning-styles/557687/

From the BBC:

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20161010-do-we-have-a-preferred-style-of-learning

 

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Improving your medical teaching practice one minute at a time

Making changes in how we do things can seem overwhelming – whether these are personal wellness habits, work habits, or teaching practice habits. In the face of a huge list or a major innovation it can seem easier to throw in the towel before you begin.

Sustaining change means adopting new practices and habits that you can stick with.

I recently took a six-week online fitness course that focused on these types of incremental changes. The course is designed for working and stay-at-home moms and recognizes that everybody is really, really busy. Our first challenge was to pick a new habit to adopt that could be easily incorporated into our regular day (I chose skip the elevator—take the stairs). Another challenge was to adopt a one-minute daily task and stick with it – because, as the course leader pointed out: everybody has one minute. I (finally) started doing daily balancing exercises for my multiple-injury-damaged ankles. I’m five weeks in on that new daily one-minute habit, so I think it’s going to stick.

Along the way, I started thinking about one-minute habits and how this could apply to medical education. So here’s my challenge to those looking to improve or change their teaching practice:

Think of one thing that you can do in one minute (a day, or one minute at a time) that could improve your work in medical education. Adopt that one-minute habit. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Immediately after teaching, take ONE MINUTE to jot down quick notes on what you want to change the next time you teach. Do it right after your session, or you may forget what it is.

  2. Create a Med Ed “feel good file” in Google docs or another electronic format (this might take more than a minute): put in things like great feedback fro course evaluations, notes to yourself when something went really, really well with a class or a clerk, notes on teaching things you’re really proud of. If you’re having a bad (teaching) day, pull up the file and take ONE MINUTE to remind yourself of the good things you do as a medical educator.

  3. Reserve the last minute of class, seminar, or rounds to get two-sentence student feedback on index cards – what’s their top take-away from your session/seminar/rounds and what’s their muddiest point right now? Have them take ONE MINUTE to give you this feedback. Over the next week, take ONE MINUTE a day to read through some of the cards. Use the feedback to inform changes to your teaching or to shape a follow-up session.

  4. If you’re logged into MEdTech, take ONE MINUTE to annotate your session objectives on MEdTech. You likely already have these objectives in your PowerPoint slides, so you can just match them up to the assigned ones. (If you have multiple objectives, use your ONE MINUTE to do what you can now!)

  5. Start a teaching ideas journal (could be a notebook, or a word file, or the Notes app on your smart phone). After you’ve read a journal article, or talked with a colleague, or attended a workshop, take ONE MINUTE to write down ideas for how to incorporate this new information into your teaching

  6. Email or phone me and ask for help. No, seriously, do this. True story: While I was writing this post, a faculty member called and said: “Do you have one minute right now for a question?” We might not solve your challenge in a ONE MINUTE phone call, but if not, we can set a time to get together.

Sure, you could take more time on some of these ideas — but not at the expense of feeling overwhelmed by “one more thing” on a big project to-do list. Also, remember, these are suggestions to select from. Don’t take on all of them, because that has potential to turn into an overwhelming, throw-away plan. Pick one or two, or create your own. Because everyone has one minute.

 

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Now what? Making the most of a conference, now that you’re home

Many of us from Queen’s UG – faculty, staff and students – are just returning to campus after a few days in Halifax, NS for the annual Canadian Conference on Medical Education (CCME).

CCME brings together those involved in all aspects of medical education from across Canada and beyond for workshops, meetings, plenaries, research orals and posters, and general sharing of innovations and challenges.

Like most jam-packed conferences, the information overload can be overwhelming. Here are five ways to make the most of your conference experience, once you’re back home:

  1. That Bag O’Stuff: If you didn’t do this prior to packing to come home, take two minutes to sort the “stuff” acquired at the exhibitors’ hall, at the poster presentations, and handouts from workshops. Are you really interested in that program/service/product/innovation or did you add it to your bag from habit? I sort my conference bag while standing over the recycle bin and keep only things I’m going to follow-up on. Put what remains aside for tip #2.

  2. Get out your Post-Its! For everything that’s left from your paper purge, put a note on it RIGHT NOW. In two weeks you’ll forget exactly why you picked that up – especially if you thought it might be of interest for a colleague. Write yourself those notes!

    Hmmmm. Why did I take this picture? Do I need to save it? Sort your files right now!
  3. Sort 2: Electronic edition: Did you use your smart phone to take pictures of posters or of presenter’s slides that spoke to you? Move them to a labelled folder NOW and offload to your computer to ensure they don’t get lost amongst your upcoming summer shots. Label things a la electronic stickies (see #2)

  4. Follow-through: Did you collect emails from anyone you met along the way? Did you make tentative plans to get together, pursue a project, or generally stay in touch? Send off that quick networking email now, before those potentially productive contacts are lost in the busy of day-to-day responsibilities.

  5. Plan ahead: Mark your calendar now for next year’s CCME in Niagara Falls April 16-19, 2019. (Abstracts open later this month!)

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The special challenges of researching teaching and learning

[Italics indicates a hyperlink]

We’re passionate about teaching and learning and equally passionate about evidence-based medicine. So, it follows that we’re also interested in evidence-based teaching methods. That translates into interest in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at the School of Medicine.

This means we have teachers interested in conducting research studies about their teaching and in finding better ways to help students learn. This is a particularly challenging type of research that raises unique issues about power, confidentiality, captive populations, and the burden on participants.

The Queen’s General Research Ethics Board (GREB) issued a four-page guideline document on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in June 2017.

As much of the research conducted by those involved in the UGME program focuses on SoTL – and the HSREB is aligned with the Queen’s GREB – these Guidelines are relevant to research considerations for both faculty, staff, and student-led projects.

The Guidelines document draws attention to studies with direct student involvement, as well as self-studies, which both have implications for student privacy, including during the research dissemination process.

For studies with direct student involvement, other considerations that are highlighted include:

Power Differential

The power-over relationships between instructors/researchers and students can impact the students’ decision to participate in the research. This differential can be managed by keeping the instructors/researchers at arm’s length from the students by person or time [with suggestions provided]

Captive Populations

This term can be applied when participants are dependent on an ‘authority figure’ (e.g., instructor/researcher) who can infringe on their freedom to make decisions. [Guideline include ways to mitigate this risk.]

Participant Burden

The main purpose of formal education is for students to gain knowledge, not to be participants in research. If students are repeatedly asked to participate in research studies, their educational pursuits may be compromised. It may be of value for instructors/researchers to consider what other types of research are being conducted with students to diminish the impact of participant burden. Also, instructors/researchers should try to design studies that help enrich the students’ educational experiences instead of distracting from those experiences.

Confidentiality

Students may have concerns about whether or not their instructors/researchers know if they took part in the research. Students may feel their decision not to participate in the research could impact their academic trajectory. [Includes suggestions for how to mitigate this risk].

[Excerpts from pages 2-3 of the Guideline]

If you’re interested in creating a study related to your teaching in the UGME program, feel free to get in touch with the Education Team to talk through some of these challenges. We’re here to help.


The complete four-page document is available here under “Guidelines” or use this direct link to download the PDF file

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Five things attending a gaming expo reinforced about medical education

It’s March Break in much of Ontario – including for UGME students and faculty at Queen’s School of Medicine – so I found myself at “EGLX” in Toronto with my 13-year-old son. Billed as “Canada’s Largest Video Game Expo” the three-day extravaganza included virtual reality, cosplay, exhibitors, panels, artists, a giant Nerf battle, and various and sundry gaming competitions. Given that the height of my gaming career was “VICman” (a Pac-Man knock-off by Commodore back in the early 1980s) and playing a mean game of Tetris (so, translation: Worst. Gamer. Ever.), this is perhaps one of the last places anyone would expect to find me. However: moms do stuff. (Dads do, too. My husband valiantly went to TWO days of it). In this and other unfamiliar territory, medical education is rarely far from my mind. Here are five things the expo reinforced about Med Ed:

  1. Be open to new experiences

VR is cool, but the set-up takes some getting used to for it to work well.

This one works for both teachers and students. Whether it’s tackling a new subject or trying out a different teaching or assessment method, it can pay off to be brave and just dive right in. While I’m not a gaming convert, EGLX gave me a new view to some of my son’s interests and showed the breadth of the industry. When we do the same thing over and over again, we can get trapped in our own “bubble” of experiences and not realize what else is out there. There’s value in new perspectives.

  1. Learning works in multiple directions

I’m used to being in the role of educator – both as a parent and at work, where I’m mostly behind the scenes in the planning stages. It’s important to remember that learning isn’t mono-directional. At the expo, I was the rookie, and my kid the mentor. (And my husband, the trade-show veteran, was the navigator). In medical education, learning comes from our faculty, our students, allied health professionals, our patients and their families.

  1. Technology is cool

More pedaling = more power

What starts as games can turn into tools and vice versa. Some of the virtual reality stuff at the expo was pretty cool (fly like Superman, anyone?) and, for parents, the cycle-to-power-the-game stuff never gets old. (Just when am I going to be able to buy one?). Likewise in the classroom and clinics – what’s the next good thing to enhance learning?

  1. Celebrate accomplishments

One whole segment of the expo featured projects by students at Sheridan College. While this, of course, served to promote the programs at the college, it also gave students well-deserved recognition for hundreds (thousands) of hours of work, problem-solving, and creativity. Sometimes the accomplishments of our students and faculty become routine to us – we need to take time to showcase and celebrate the great things we’re doing.

  1. If something doesn’t work the first time, try something else.

My son wanted to meet some of the YouTube gaming celebrities. (Yeah, I learned this is a thing). Our first day there, we were waiting in a very long line that was moving about one person every five or six minutes. I counted those ahead of us, did some math and figured we’d be there for about 2.5 hours before we hit the front of the line. We ditched the line and went to an awesome ribs place for supper instead. The next day, my son and husband went to one of the YouTube gamer panels, left strategically early, and landed second in line. Likewise in Med Ed, sometimes we introduce innovations and don’t get them quite right. We need to step back, figure out what went wrong, and go at it a different way.

Next week: Five things about medical education reinforced by the multiple shoe stores at the Vaughan Mills Mall. (Just kidding…. Maybe).

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