Rerun season nostalgia and course planning

In the era of Netflix, TiVo, and Internet downloading that has given rise to binge-watching an entire TV series in a weekend, my childhood appreciation for summer rerun season is distinctly absent.

For those of a certain generation, summer was the time to catch-up: on sleep, on reading, on those episodes of your favourite TV show that you missed because of basketball practice or drama rehearsal (or because your brother got to pick his favourite show alternating Tuesday nights).

While reruns may be absent from your television set, the concept of reruns can be helpful in your course planning for the fall. As you review your teaching, consider these things:

  • What were the highlights? (80s Rerun Parallel: A great episode you want to see again)
  • What did you include but didn’t cover as closely as you wanted? (80s Rerun Parallel: That awesome episode you half-watched while playing Candy Land while babysitting)
  • What got dropped by accident? (80s Rerun Parallel: The special episodes you missed because you just couldn’t get to the TV at the right time—see reasons, above).

These rerun-inspired reflection prompts can get you thinking of areas where you can improve or enhance your teaching plan. And, in the spirit of retro TV-rerun season, here are four of my previous blog posts you may have missed that give you some tools for planning or revising your teaching after your reflecting is complete:

Now, excuse me while I try to figure out the scheduling of binge-watching six seasons of Game of Thrones so I can get caught up. I seem to be one of the only people around who hasn’t watched a single episode.

But, seriously, I’m always available to talk through your UG teaching challenges. Email me: theresa.suart@queensu.ca

 

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When teaching isn’t fun anymore…

People come to teaching through a variety of paths. That’s especially true in medical education.

One thing that most educators – at any level – have in common is a sincere desire to teach. And, generally, most educators get some enjoyment out of it. But what happens if that’s not the case? What if you’ve been told you must teach, or (perhaps more disheartening), what if you’ve enjoyed education assignments to this point, but teaching just isn’t fun anymore?

Even if it’s something you have been passionate about, it can be a challenge to stay engaged year after year. Even the most dedicated educators can lose steam along the way. (These suggestions aren’t focused on the level of burnout. That’s another very serious topic for another day. This is more about a “general malaise” – you know there’s something not working, but you’re not quite sure what that is.)

If your enthusiasm for your teaching assignment is on the wane, and it seems more chore than challenge, here are five possible interventions to consider:

  1. Re-focus on what attracted you to teaching in the first place. (Or, if you’ve been assigned to teach, think about what you enjoyed about learning).

What brought you to teaching in the first place? Is it sharing knowledge and expertise? Working with future colleagues? Exploring new technologies or teaching methods? Is it the place, the people, the content? Sometimes we drop our favourite things by accident. Is there something missing now that you can reintroduce to your teaching practice?

  1. Team up with a colleague.

Despite the many faculty we have, teaching can seem a lonely enterprise. Preparation is very often done solo and it’s you standing alone with the class or group of students. Consider partnering with a colleague to prepare together and compare notes after teaching. You don’t have to be teaching in the same course or area – it’s staying connected and sharing viewpoints that can help.

  1. Swap assignments.

If you’re able to, consider swapping teaching responsibilities with a colleague: if you’ve always focused on pre-clerkship teaching, maybe trade with a colleague who has focused on clerkship instruction. If you’ve been an FSGL tutor, swap with a Clinical Skills one. The shift in perspective could help you both (and enrich students’ experiences, too). If you pair this with #2, you can help each other through the transition. When you swap back the next year, you’ll each have new tools and a fresh outlook.

  1. If you can, step away for a little while.

While this is not always possible, if you can take a break from teaching, it can reawaken your enthusiasm. Time away can help you remember exactly what it is you love about teaching and give you space to address those areas that have become chores. Sometimes absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

  1. Come talk to me or other members of the Education Team.

We may be able to help pinpoint specific areas of your teaching assignment that are dragging you down and brainstorm some solutions. Sometimes talking it out can provide its own insight. We don’t have all the answers, but we can certainly help look for them. Reach me here: theresa.suart@queensu.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five things to do this summer: a Med Ed to-do list

This first year I worked in a post-secondary setting, I was somewhat bemused when students asked me how I was going to spend my summer – they were heading out on a three or four month “break” and assumed I was doing the same. Some had work plans, some travel, some both. Regardless, they would be away from campus and recharging their batteries, and, perhaps, expanding their perspectives in a variety of ways. I, however, would be at my desk.

Two decades and three universities later, I’m still working through much of the summer months as are many of my administration, staff, and faculty colleagues as we stagger vacations with other colleagues and other family members’ schedules.

For those of us at the School of Medicine (including our 2018 clerks!) who don’t have two or three months off this season but maybe a couple of weeks and the odd day here or there to make a long weekend – here’s my list of five things to do that are (loosely) related to medical education. (This list is best perused—and perhaps amended or augmented—while sitting on a patio with your favourite libation).

  1. Read something not related to your discipline

In the crush of academic terms, it’s easy to fall into the trap of reading for work, not for recreation. There’s always just one more journal article to be read, one more new text to review. One more thing to stay on top of. Vow to read at least one novel (or collection of short stories, or poetry) this summer. Regardless of genre, you’ll learn something of the human condition (which is at the heart of medicine and medical education) and it will refresh you, too. So, move it to the top of your To Be Read pile. Among my picks: a toss-up between finally reading at least one of the Harry Potter books, or Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. Maybe both. The Art of Adapting by Cassandra Dunn is also in the running.

  1. Binge watch a cooking show on the Food Network

Whether it’s TiVo’ed or Netflix, the ability to skip the ads is a godsend for a rainy Saturday’s binge-watching. Opt for something where you might pick up a recipe or tip or two, but pay attention to how the host explains what they’re doing. Is it conversational? Directive? Do you stay engaged? Or pick one of the competition shows (Chopped is my guilty pleasure) and check out how different judges give feedback. Some are brutal; some overly-kind without much substance. Some have thoughtful suggestions. Many adapt their critique delivery, based on the experience and competence levels of the chefs competing. How can this inform how you deliver feedback?

  1. Enlist some pals and build a sandcastle at the beach

Sandcastles are hands-on and best accomplished as a team effort. Building one requires both attention to details and a flexibility to accommodate the sand, water, and tide schedule. The plan is rarely ever 100% completed without modifications along the way. Plus, everybody gets dirty. And, at the end of the day, there’s nothing except pictures as the tide washes it away. So, a fresh slate the next day. And, we can take the lessons learned on to the next one.

  1. Hit the movie theatre to see a summer blockbuster

Enjoy the a/c and see something outrageous. Popcorn optional. Take note of if the story drags anywhere: did you get the urge to check your smart-phone (pre-movie admonishments aside). What made your attention wander? Was it an extraneous info-dump? An overly-long car chase? Just too much of something? A gap in knowledge? If you’re working on online modules for next year, take note of where the show lost you. Adapt this insight to material you create for your students.

  1. Watch some fireworks

Most of us know that fireworks were invented in China centuries ago. According to the “Fireworks University” website, this was an accident when a field kitchen cook happened to mix charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter. What a happy accident*.

There’s no great medical education insight to go with this watch fireworks suggestion: they’re just fun. And maybe that’s the insight right there.


 * (I feel obliged to stress the importance of  following all instructions for the at-home kind of fireworks and strongly urging you to show up for community fireworks shows instead. Avoid the unplanned side trip to the ER).

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Doctors, patients, ritual and showing up

Ritual is a big part of life; this is especially evident at universities at this time of year. I recently took part in the ritual of attending convocation at another university to watch my daughter receive her Bachelor of Health Sciences degree. In addition to the parental joy of seeing my daughter on stage for about six seconds of hooding and handshaking, I had the pleasure of hearing the convocation speaker, Dr. Abraham Verghese, a physician, author and professor at Stanford School of Medicine.

The importance of ritual, both in life and in particular in the doctor-patient relationship, is something Dr. Verghese is passionate about. He’s written about this, presented TED talks, and, late last month, incorporated this message into his convocation address at McMaster University.

Dr. Abraham Verghese (Screenshot from webcast)

Dr. Verghese noted that it’s possible to get your degree without attending the ceremony, but “rituals matter.” He added: “It says something about you that you believe in this ritual, that you showed up, because showing up for rituals that matter is perhaps the best advice I can give you.”

He acknowledged that he was speaking from “the vantage point of a window of practicing medicine” but hoped his message about ritual would resonate with everyone. He pointed out that the very ritual of convocation itself makes no sense in other contexts: “You’re dressed in a way that you otherwise never dress like. And I’m dressed as I rarely dress. With distinguished faculty on the stage, you marched in proceeded by a beadle carrying the mace, an instrument of battle that’s also a metaphor of power.”

“Our anthropology colleagues teach us that rituals are all about crossing a threshold,” he explained. “They represent a transformation, whether it’s a baptism, or a bar mitzvah, an inauguration, a funeral, a graduation.”

He challenged the graduates to consider what the rituals are in their lives, in their work, before sharing insight into his own understanding of ritual in his medical practice:

“If you think about the usual clinic visits, two strangers are often coming together, one person in the room will be wearing this white shamanistic outfit with tools in their pockets, and the other individual will be wearing a paper gown that no one knows how to tie or untie. The furniture in the room looks nothing like the furniture in your house or mine. The individual in the paper gown will then begin to tell the other one things that they would never tell their rabbi, or their preacher, and in my specialty of infectious disease, they will tell me things they would never tell their spouse. And then, incredibly, they will disrobe and allow touch, which in any other context in society would be assault, but the physician gets the privilege in the setting of this ritual.”

He further explained that this is not unique to any one culture. “I care for people from all kinds of ethnic groups, and I’m struck by how many different beliefs they have about illness, about disease, about treatment, but they all know about ritual,” he said. “And you put them in that room with all its setup and they know they’re about to embark in a ritual and if you do it poorly, if you just do a prod of their belly, and stick your stethoscope on the gown, they’re on to you, they can tell when you’re doing it well just as you can tell when you’re in the hands of a thoughtful barista, a good chef, a good hairdresser, a good mechanic.

“Rituals, done well, signify people who are doing their jobs well.”

Rituals can also be transformative, he said. “I learned this firsthand in the early years of the AIDS epidemic before we had any treatment,” he said, recalling a young man who he had followed for months at the clinic and who was now dying in the hospital.

“Each day I would come to his bedside and I’d visit him and I’d talk to his mother, and not knowing what else to do in this sacred hallowed space that surrounded him with his mother holding vigil, after a while, I would begin to examine him, albeit briefly. I would listen to his heart, I would percuss his lungs, feel his abdomen, feel his spleen, even though it was very unlikely I would discover anything that would change what we did,” he said.

“I engaged in this ritual out of habit, relieved that it gave me something to do, some purpose at the bedside.”

“One day, when I came by, his mother, that eternal figure there, told me that he’d not spoken or come to consciousness since the previous noon. It seemed certain that he was about to die, and in fact, he did pass away a few hours later,” Dr. Verghese continued. “But strangely, at that moment, as he heard us talking, as he heard my voice, we saw his hands begin to move. She was astonished, ‘cause she had not seen anything before. And I was astonished, and we’re wondering what is he gonna do? And we saw his skeletal fingers flutter up and then move to this wicker basket of a chest of his. And it took us a while to understand that he was fumbling with his pajama buttons. He was trying to unbutton his shirt, he was reflexively allowing me the privilege of examining him, giving me permission. I tell you, I did not decline the gift.”

“I percussed, I palpated, I listened to his heart, his lungs. I felt connected to the timeless message the physician conveys, the same message the horse and buggy doctor, riding out to towns on the western edge of Lake Ontario 150, 200 years ago, conveyed to his or her patients of that era, when there was so little to offer,” he said.

“The message is that beyond the data, beyond the evidence or lack of evidence, beyond the medicines that stop working, here I am and no matter what, I care, I will be there with you through thick and thin, I will not stop coming, I will show up.”

Dr. Verghese then spoke about emerging artificial intelligence and how it will change medicine.

“Here’s what’s not going to change, is the need for human beings to care for each other,” he said.

“We all need it in every walk of life, but especially in the care of the sick. I’m hoping that in my field, artificial intelligence will free us from some of the drudgery of medical record keeping and allow us to fulfill the Samaritan function of being a physician, to minister to those who suffer,” he added.

He exhorted the graduates to “embrace the rituals of your life, be conscious of them.”

“Be in charge and be cognizant of those human values and rituals that you want to preserve,” he added. “Remember that fluttering hand of the dying patient, I remember it every single day.”

Unlike machines, he said, “You can care, you can love, you can preserve the rituals that showcase these things. And you can show up. Always show up.”


You can watch Dr. Verghese’s full address here. It begins around 29:05.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Queen’s UGME well-represented at CCME

Queen’s UGME was well-represented in the oral and poster presentations at the recent Canadian Conference on Medical Education (CCME) held in Winnipeg, MB.

Four oral presentations showcased UG work with another oral highlighting a teaching innovation in the QuARMS Program while a dozen posters featured Queen’s UG research and innovations featuring work by faculty, students, and staff.

As explained on the CCME website, “the purpose of the CCME is to highlight, and allow participants to benefit from, developments in medical education and to promote academic medicine by establishing an annual forum for medical educators and their many partners to meet and exchange ideas.”

The Queen’s oral presentations included:

  • The Next SSTEP: The Surgical Skills and Technology Elective Program decreases cognitive load during suturing tasks in 2nd year medical students by Henry Ajzenberg, Peter Wang, Adam Mosa, Frances Dang, Tyson Savage, Peter Thin Vo, Justin Wang, Stephen Mann, Andrea Winthrop
  • The Newborn Book – An evaluation of an interactive eBook as course material by Lauren Friedman, Jonathan Cluett, Bob Connelly
  • Altering the scoring of global rating scales on an Undergraduate OSCE: Does it affect the identification of candidates with borderline performance? By Michelle Gibson, Eleni Katsoulas, Stefan Merchant, Andrea Winthrop
  • Sampling Patient Experience to Assess Communication (SPEAC): A Targeted Needs Assessment by Adam Mosa, Andrea Winthrop, Sachin Pasricha, Eleni Katsoulas
  • Fireside chats – High Impact Informal Learning by Jennifer MacKenzie, McMaster University, Theresa Nowlan-Suart, Anthony Sanfilippo

Posters, presented both during facilitated poster sessions and the new, dedicated poster session, included:

  • An Inter-professional, Cross-cultural Service Learning Project: Development of a Nutrition Education Program in Rural Tanzanian Schools by Jenn Carpenter, Queen’s University, Donna Clarke-McMullen, Renee Berquist, Saint Lawrence College
  • Pathways to community service learning: The Queen’s Service-Learning Framework by Lindsay Davidson and Theresa Nowlan Suart
  • Introducing Medical Students to Stories of Indigenous Patients by Lindsay Davidson, Melanie Walker, Steven Tresierra, Jennifer McCall, Michael Green, Laura Maracle,
  • Predictors of medical student engagement in an e-Portfolio for intrinsic CanMEDS roles by Steven Bae, Danielle LaPointe-McEwan, Sheila Pinchin, Anthony Sanfilippo, John Freeman, Queen’s University Ulemu Luhanga, Emory University Jennifer MacKenzie, McMaster University
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the First Patient Program’s use of resources in achieving learning objectives for medical students by Stephanie Chan, Vincent Wu, Sheila Pinchin, Phillip Wattam, Leslie Flynn
  • Evaluation of a multi-modality nutrition program for first year medical students by Andrea Guerin, Theresa Nowlan Suart, Shannon Willmott, Karen Kaur Grewal
  • Assessing the Effect of the Eye Matching System on Clinical Competency with the Ophthalmoscope in Medical Students by Etienne Benard-Seguin, Jason Kwok, Walter Liao, Stephanie Baxter
  • Curriculum to Cookbook by Moncia Mullin, Meghan Bhatia, Renee Fitzpatrick, Shelia Pinchin
  • The CFMS National Wellness Challenge: evaluating a new initiative to promote development of healthy habits in medical professionals by Alyssa Lip, Renee Fitzpatrick
  • Ontario Medical Students Association Wellness Retreat: A Program Evaluation by Shannon Chun, Renée Fitzpatrick, Queen’s University, Christine Prudhoe, University of Ottawa
  • Evaluating Student’s Perspective of Team-Based Learning In Undergraduate Medical Education by Kate Trebuss, Vincent Wu, Jordan Goodridge, Gemma Cramarossa, Lindsay Davidson
  • Preclerkship Interprofessional Observerships: What I Know Now by Shannon Willmott, Ameir Makar, Etienne Benard-Seguin, Sarah Edgerley, Lindsay Davidson

Next year’s conference is set for April 28 – May 1 in Halifax, NS. The abstract submission portal is already open. Find it here.

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Singers, dancers, musicians & a dean: It’s MVN!

It’s Medical Variety Night (MVN) time of year at the School of Medicine and UGME students have been putting in long hours of practice and preparation. And they’re not the only ones – this year the show includes a feature performance by Faculty of Health Sciences Dean Richard Reznick.

Co-director Manisha Tilak (2019) says you’ll have to show up to see the Dean’s act – no other information is being shared. “He’s actually in an act, though, it’s not just that he’ll be attending,” she adds.

Tilak and co-directors Andrew McNaughton (2019), Edrea Khong (2020) and Daisy Liu (2020) have been hard at work since September to ensure the success of this year’s show. This year’s theme is The Phantom of the Operation.

Dancers in the now-traditional Bollywood number have been in rehearsal since November. Auditions for the other acts were held around the same time. There will be music solos, duos and trios as well as the class skits. Other dance numbers will feature Hip hop and Swing.

While the show may have a few ‘culture of medicine’ in-jokes, it’s designed to be interesting and entertaining for everyone.

This is the 47th incarnation of the Medical Variety Night, which benefits local charities. This year, proceeds are being donated to Almost Home, which provides accommodations for families with children receiving medical treatment at Kingston area hospitals.

“The most fun part comes the night of the show when you see all the hard work pay off and everyone enjoying themselves,” Tilak noted. Also, the tally at the end of the night: “When we’re able to send a good donation to the Almost Home.”

The show will take place April 7 and 8 at Duncan McArthur Hall, 511 Union Street, Kingston. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online (buy them here: https://mvn2017.squarespace.com) and at the door.

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Singers, dancers, musicians & a dean: It’s MVN!

It’s Medical Variety Night (MVN) time of year at the School of Medicine and UGME students have been putting in long hours of practice and preparation. And they’re not the only ones – this year the show includes a feature performance by Faculty of Health Sciences Dean Richard Reznick.

Co-director Manisha Tilak (2019) says you’ll have to show up to see the Dean’s act – no other information is being shared. “He’s actually in an act, though, it’s not just that he’ll be attending,” she adds.

Tilak and co-directors Andrew McNaughton (2019), Edrea Khong (2020) and Daisy Liu (2020) have been hard at work since September to ensure the success of this year’s show. This year’s theme is The Phantom of the Operation.

Dancers in the now-traditional Bollywood number have been in rehearsal since November. Auditions for the other acts were held around the same time. There will be music solos, duos and trios as well as the class skits. Other dance numbers will feature Hip hop and Swing.

While the show may have a few ‘culture of medicine’ in-jokes, it’s designed to be interesting and entertaining for everyone.

This is the 47th incarnation of the Medical Variety Night, which benefits local charities. This year, proceeds are being donated to Almost Home, which provides accommodations for families with children receiving medical treatment at Kingston area hospitals.

“The most fun part comes the night of the show when you see all the hard work pay off and everyone enjoying themselves,” Tilak noted. Also, the tally at the end of the night: “When we’re able to send a good donation to the Almost Home.”

The show will take place April 7 and 8 at Duncan McArthur Hall, 511 Union Street, Kingston. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online (buy them here: https://mvn2017.squarespace.com) and at the door.

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Decoding Learning Event Types

Tucked on the right-hand side of every Learning Event Page on MEdTech are notations about the date & time and location of the class, followed by the length of the session and then the “Breakdown” of how the time will be spent. In other words: the learning event type.

We use 14 learning event types* in the UGME program. The identification of a learning event type indicates the type of teaching and learning experience to be expected at that session.

Broadly speaking, our learning event types can be divided into two categories: Content Delivery and Content Application.

For content delivery, students are presented with core knowledge and/or skills with specific direction and/or commentary from an expert teacher. Content delivery learning events include:

  • Directed Independent Learning (DIL) — these are independent learning sessions which are assigned curricular time. Typically students are expected to spend up to double the assigned time to complete the tasks – i.e. some of the work may occur in “homework time”. DIL’s have a specific structure and must include:
    • Specific learning objectives
    • A resource or set of resources chosen by the teacher
    • Teacher guidance indicating the task or particular focus that is required of students. This may be a formal assignment, informal worksheet or study guide.
    • The session must link to a subsequent content application session
    • Formative testing in the form of MCQ or reflective questions are an optional component of DILs
  • Lecture – Whole class session which is largely teacher-directed. We encourage the use of case illustrations during lectures, however these alone do not fulfil the criteria for content application or active learning.
  • Demonstration – Session where a skill or technique is demonstrated to students.

For content application (sometimes described as “active learning”), students work in teams or individually to use and clarify previously-acquired knowledge, usually while working through case-based problems. These learning event types include:

  • Small group learning (SGL): Students work in teams to solve case-base problems which are revealed progressively. Simultaneous reporting and facilitated inter-team discussion is a key component of this learning strategy which is modeled on Team-based learning. SGL cases may be preceded by in class readiness assessment testing (RAT) done individually and then as a team. This serves to debrief the preparation and provide for individual accountability for preparation.
  • Facilitated small group learning (FSGL)Students work in teams and with a faculty tutor to solve case-base problems which are revealed progressively. While there is structure to FSGL cases, students are encouraged to seek out and share knowledge based on individual research.
  • Simulation: Session where students participate in a simulated procedure or clinical encounter.
  • Case-based Instruction (CBI): Session where students interact with guest patients and/or health care providers who share their experience. Builds on prior learning and often includes interactive Q+A component.
  • Laboratory: Hands-on or simulated exercises in which learners collect or use data to test and/or verify hypotheses or to address questions about principles and/or phenomena, such as Anatomy Labs.

The other learning event types we use don’t fit as neatly into the content delivery/content application algorithm. These include:

  • Clerkship seminar – instruction provided to a learner or small group of learners by direct interaction with an instructor. Depending on design, clerkship seminars may be either content delivery or content application.
  • Self-Directed Learning (SDL) is scheduled time set aside for students to take the initiative for their own learning. A minimum of eight hours per week (pro-rated in short weeks) is designated SDL time.
  • Peer Teaching is learner-to-learner instruction for the mutual learning experience of both “teacher” and “learner” which includes active learning components. This includes sessions that require students to work together in small groups without a teaching, such as Being a Medical Student (BAMS) sessions, the Community Based Project and some Critical Enquiry sessions.
  • Career Counseling sessions, which provide guidance, direction and support; these may be in groups or one-on-one.

Two other notations you’ll see are “Other-curricular” and “Other—non-curricular”. Other—curricular is used for sessions that are directly linked to a course but that are not included in calculations of instructional methods. This includes things like examinations, post-exam reviews, and orientation sessions. Other—non-curricular are sessions of an administrative nature that are not directly linked to a particular course and are outside of curricular time, for example, class town hall meetings and optional events or conferences.

Incorporating a variety of learning event types in each course is important to ensure a balance of knowledge acquisition and application. Course plans are set by course directors with their year director, in consultation with the course teachers and with support from the UG Education Team and the Teaching, Learning, and Integration Committee (TLIC).


— With contributions from Lindsay Davidson, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Integration

*In 2015, Queen’s UGME adopted the MedBiquitous learning event naming conventions to ease sharing of data amongst institutions. For this reason, some  learning event type categories may be different from ones used here prior to 2015, or ones used at other, non-medical schools or medical schools which have not adopted these conventions.

 

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When your objective is to write learning objectives…

Several times over the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with course directors and instructors about writing learning objectives.

Many people – from award-winning educators to rookies and everyone in between – find writing learning objectives a challenge. The typical advice of write out who will do what under what conditions is vague, so it’s often not very helpful.

“General” learning objectives – from our UGME Competency Framework, aka the Red Book* – are already assigned to your course, and possibly to your session by your course director.

The key task for instructors is to take these general objectives and annotate them with specific objectives for their sessions, including what level of learning, such as comprehension, application or analysis. (This is from something called “Bloom’s Taxonomy”, if you’re interested in the research behind this).

A natural starting point is: What do you want your learners to take away from your session?

Frequently the response is:

  •  “I want them to know….”
  •  “I want them to understand….”
  •  “I want them to be able to…”

Once you’ve wrestled something like this into sentences, I realize it’s disheartening to have someone like me come along and say, “Uh, no, that’s not up to scratch.”

What’s wrong with “know” and “understand”? Isn’t that exactly what we’d like our students to walk away with – knowledge, understanding, skills? Absolutely. The challenge with these so-called “bad objective verbs” is that we can’t measure them through assessment. How do we know they know?

That’s the starting point for writing a better learning objective. If you want to assess that students know something, how will you assess that?

For example, while we can’t readily assess if a learner “understands” a concept, we can assess whether they can “define”, “describe”, “analyze”, or “summarize” material.

Here’s my “secret” that I use all the time to write learning objectives – I can’t memorize anything to save my life, so I rely on what I informally call my Verb Cheat Sheet. The one I’ve used for many years was published by Washington Hospital Centre, Office of Continuing Medical Education. It list cognitive domains (levels) and suggests verbs for each one. There are many such lists available on the Internet if you search “learning objectives” (here’s another one that’s more colourful than my basic chart, below).

Screen shot 2017-01-16 at 2.43.06 PM

Well-written learning objectives can help learners focus on what material they need to learn and what level of mastery is expected. Well-written objectives can assist instructors in creating assessment questions by reminding you of the skills you want students to demonstrate.

Here’s my quick three step method to annotating your assigned objectives on your MEdTech Learning Event page with your learning-event specific objectives:

  1. Start with writing your know or understand statements: what do you want learners to know or understand after your session?
  2. Think about what level of understanding you want students to demonstrate and how you would measure that (scan the verb chart for ideas)
  3. Write a declarative sentence of your expectation of students’ abilities following your session. In your draft, start it off with “The learner will”. For example: The learner will identify the bones of the hand on a reference diagram. Your objective would be: “Identify the bones of the hand on a reference diagram.”

As a fourth step, feel free to email your draft objectives to me at theresa.suart@queensu.ca for review and assistance (if needed). I’m happy to help.

 


Table excerpted from Washington Hospital Center, Office of Continuing Medical Education’s “Behavioral Verbs for Writing Objectives in the Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor Domains” (no date).

* The “Red Book” got its name because for the first edition (we’re now on the fourth), the card stock used for the cover was red. Over time, everyone started calling it the “Red Book”.

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Online modules can enhance curriculum content delivery

Do you want to build an eModule?

Online modules, or eModules, are one of the content delivery methods available for use in our UGME curriculum.

As with any content delivery method, the teacher’s job is to define objectives, then organize and deliver new content to students. Online modules can deliver content efficiently and creatively but they’re not without potential pitfalls, so planning is key.

Unlike traditional lectures, online modules can curate other online content like a museum exhibit: you can select useful works from others and present these with guidance. The potential pitfall here is if not done carefully, modules can be information overload.

Modules can have interactivity, such as multiple choice questions with automated feedback. This can help keep students engaged as they work through the new content. Remember, though, for UGME, we aren’t building complete online courses – our eModules are prefaces to in-class interactive case/problem-based learning.

Carefully created eModules can be particularly useful where there is no resource appropriate for this level of learner.

Using an online module to deliver new content means you can use classroom time for interactive problem-solving: having completed the module, students come in prepared to apply their new knowledge.

Online modules are intended to be fully integrated with the rest of the UG curriculum – they don’t stand alone, but are one tool to deliver content students later apply in other settings, both classroom and clinical. Modules used to deliver new content in pre-clerkship can later be used by students as review during particular clerkship rotations, for example.

Here are some examples of the types of online modules in use in Undergraduate Medicine:

We also have a newly-created MEdTech community “Queen’s UGME E-Curriculum” designed to provide links to all UGME online modules. (Requires MEdTech log-in to access). As it’s currently under construction, there may be a few modules missing at the moment.

To help avoid some of the pitfalls of online modules – such as content overload, not providing sufficient guidance for students, and lack of linkage to subsequent sessions, the Teaching, Learning, and Innovation Committee, the UGME Education Team, and EdTech have implemented a streamlined process for creating and adopting new eModules for the UGME curriculum.

The process starts with content creation and/or compilation, followed by design, then support and follow-up for incorporating the module in your teaching.

If you already have a good idea of what you’d like to do, you can use the form found here to start the process.

If you’d just like to brainstorm and talk about possibilities, feel free to get in touch with me at theresa.suart@queensu.ca or with Lindsay Davidson, TLIC Director (lindsay.davidson@queensu.ca)

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