Author: Theresa Suart
Use the microphones, and other audio advice
Microphones can be intimidating to use and sometimes we think we don’t need to use them. (Especially those of us who have developed a “teacher voice” over the years). However, using the microphones available in the School of Medicine Building’s large teaching theatres (032 and 132) is essential to provide an optimal learning experience for all, especially those who may be using Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs), catching up with captured lectures, or video-conferencing in using Zoom.
These teaching spaces were actually designed to limit sound travel, so the microphones become essential equipment. “The theatres were designed to be like a recording studio, which means there’s minimum audio transfer throughout the room,” Jason Palmer, Classroom Technology and Media Coordinator* explained.
The building materials were selected with this minimal audio transfer in mind. It’s accomplished through acoustic panels in the ceiling and the wall paneling around the room.
“It isn’t actually wood, it’s an acoustic material. If you look at the wood up close, you’ll see microlaser perforations through the wood and if you look at the backside, it looks like a half-inch thick slice of pegboard MDF, but there’s a one milimetre skin of walnut over the top of the whole thing, with these perforations,” he pointed out.
Behind the paneling itself are two other sound dampening materials as well as insulators. One reason for these design choices was to ensure that when up to 16 small groups of 7-8 people were talking to work on cases (for example) that the noise level in the room “would not be outrageous.”
“If you had a room that was very echo-y, like a standard room with standard drywall, you would create a cacophony pretty quickly. It would be untenable because the first group starts talking, the second group has to talk a little louder to be heard over the first group, to the point that it would just be a chaotic sound,” he said.
“A lot of traditional old-school classrooms were like that, because they built them out of concrete walls, and they didn’t really think about [noise] or if anyone was talking other than the lecturer – and that was the point. We’ve changed the teaching model, to use this group learning methodology, and because of that, they had to make a lot of considerations for audio.”
The rooms were also designed to act as recording studios to facilitate lecture capture and broadcasting of learning events through technology such as Zoom meeting. For these recordings, the audio is taken from a direct feed from the microphone system, rather than recording the room at large.
There are three different types of microphones used the theatres, two for presenters and one for students/audience members.
Each theatre has a lavalier lapel microphone and a handheld one. The most often used by instructors is the lavalier mic.
The quickest way to remember where to clip the lavalier microphone is to put the microphone dead centre under your chin, Palmer said. “It means wearing things like button down shirts and ties to make it really easy. Wearing things like t-shirts and solid front shirts makes it more difficult.”
A lanyard cord or strap from a passport pouch can also work. (Thank you, Dr. Sue Moffatt for this advice!) It’s helpful helpful to have either a pocket or a waistband/belt to clip the unit to, or if you’re using a passport pouch, the unit can go there.
“The reason you want it dead centre, is because a microphone is a cone, at 45 degrees. If I turn my head to either side and it’s dead centre, the microphone will still always pick me up. If I put the microphone off to the side, as soon as I turn to the other side, I’m gone.”
Some instructors prefer the hand-held microphones and these are also used for panel presentations. (There are now an additional four handheld mics available in 132 specifically for panel presentations).
When using the handheld microphone, the advice is to almost rest it on your chin and talk at a normal volume.
“The reason you almost rest it on your chin, is a microphone is really a very heavy thing. It doesn’t seem like it at first, but after an hour of teaching… the microphone starts to slowly lower down to your belly button.”
For both the lavalier and hand-held microphones, “red means stop, green means go,” Palmer said. “When you first turn it on it’s still red because it hasn’t synchronized to the receiver– this takes a bit less than two seconds. Turn it on, wait for the green, then start talking.”
Palmer does caution that a microphone isn’t a miracle worker. “If you are someone who is naturally soft-spoken at all times, a microphone won’t instantly make you louder. Contrary to what people believe a microphone is for. It’s not for amplification, it’s for sound for sound reinforcement.”
“What I tell people: When you pick up a microphone, you are talking at a dinner party to five friends, you’re not talking one-on-one to your friend. You’re also not talking at a Starbucks where it requires a lot more volume. You just need to elevate slightly – don’t yell, but at the same time, don’t talk really quietly.”
The microphones are equipped with AGC (automatic gain control) if you talk too loud and risk feedback and ‘brains’ in the microphone scale you back – so don’t worry, he added.
Do not blow into a microphone, as this can damage the equipment. “If you want to see if it’s on talk, or lightly tap it,” he advised.
The student desk microphones are activated from the main console by ensuring the “push-to-talk” mode is selected. (This is typically done by one of the technical staff first thing in the morning). Similar to the other microphones, there a one or two second delay from pushing to the microphone working. When the button is pressed, it flashes three times red, then stays on steady: at that point, it’s on. Push the button again to disengage. (It’s also automatically disengaged when another student microphone is pressed.)
The last thing he’d like students to remember about their table-top microphone system is that the mics are vulnerable to drink spills.
“All their drinks should have a lid. We don’t want to damage the microphones. Inside a microphone is a very complex arrangement of copper wire over a very thin membrane in order to facilitate sound,” he said.
Whenever there is a problem with a microphone or a button, please let the tech team know so they can fix them as soon as possible. For now, use the email@example.com email – there is a ticket system coming.
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Still, some people insist they’re loud enough to go without the tech. Palmer, who has been working in these theatres since the building opened in 2011, disagrees.
“We have ONE presenter who is, absolutely, loud enough to present in that room without a microphone. That person also did Shakespeare at Stratford – has projection! I heard them through the glass [of the audio booth] as if they were standing next to me,” he said. But even that person needs to use the microphone, he added. Palmer cites three main reasons for everyone to always use the microphone systems:
1 Individuals with hearing difficulties may have problems hearing even someone who is projecting well, due to clarity, reverberation, and other ambient interference. “You want as much clarity as possible,” he said. Plus, the microphones feed directly to the Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) that are available for use in both theatres. “It’s a ‘direct drop’ from the matrix, so it’s the cleanest line feed you can possibly get.” (I tried one out in the basement lobby outside 032 while a class was going on, and the feed even outside the classroom was excellent).
There are four ALDs for each theatre. These can be signed out from the tech booth at the back. Students can just ask at the booth, or email ahead of time if they prefer (firstname.lastname@example.org). It takes moments to set up and with fresh batteries (provided) they’re good for eight hours. Each ALD has a sanitizable hearing cup that covers one ear.
There is also a portable Assisted Listening System (ALS) available if needed in another teaching space. It includes a microphone the instructor wears that feeds directly to the student’s system. The ALS has one transmitter and eight listener units. To arrange to use the ALS, email email@example.com.
Palmer wants to make sure students aren’t hesitant to use the devices if they need them. “We always have a technician in the back room, so it’s always available.”
2 The microphone provides a direct feed for recordings for lecture capture – for both instructors and students. “It’s an opt-in system with lecturers, but just so people get in the habit of using the microphones. We need the students’ questions recorded, as well, because dead air and then an answer is not effective.”
3 “We are capable of doing Zoom video conferencing in each of the lecture theatres and without the microphones, people at the other site wouldn’t hear. We generally want everyone to have the same experience, plus, we really want that clean audio in that Zoom meeting.”
A fourth great reason to use microphones whenever they are available (not only in 032 and 132) is this helps to make our teaching spaces more accessible to all users — a requirement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
* He says he also answers to “Tech Guy”, “Computer Guy”, and “Guy in the Booth”.
DILs, RATs, and SGLs: a primer on team-based learning
Three-letter acronyms* figure heavily in medicine and medical education. Three of these that are intertwined in much of our pre-clerkship classroom-based learning are DIL, RAT and SGL.
These abbreviations are for three key learning event types that, when combined, comprise Michaelsen’s Team-Based Learning (TBL) model. This form of teaching unfolds in three steps and is designed to make best use of students’ and teachers’ time and expertise. The steps are:
Students receive preparatory materials either in a lecture, in a Directed Independent Learning (DIL) assignment, in a module, in previous courses, or preparatory readings. This material is typically fact/knowledge-based information.
Students’ understanding of this material is assessed in some way. This could be through formal Readiness Assessment Tests (RATs). These tests consist of 10-12 multiple choice questions. Each student completes an individual RAT (iRAT), then complete the same quiz in their SGL group (gRAT). The instructor then takes up any questions with which groups had difficulties. This could also be assessed via an online self-assessment quiz or some other method (e.g. completing a previous unit).
Having completed the preparation material, been assessed on their readiness, and having problem areas explained, students are ready to apply this knowledge through cases and problem solving application exercises, what we call Small Group Learning (SGL) session.
Directed Independent Learning (DIL) sessions provide content delivery, followed by Readiness Assessment Tests (RATs), culminating in Small-Group Learning (SGL) events where students engage in application exercises.
SGL sessions provide an opportunity for students to apply material they have already learned in order to extend their learning. Specifically, application exercises:
- Help students develop understanding and apply the course material.
- Address any misconceptions that may have developed, as students apply and integrate knowledge (Kubitz & Lightner p. 66).
- Provide opportunities for students through practice, to transfer what they learned to application questions (Kubitz & Lightner p. 67).
- Ensure students integrate “several different skills to answer application questions that require transfer of learning,” including accessing prior knowledge and identifying which knowledge applies and which does not (Kubitz and Lightner p. 67, citing Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, & Normal, 2010).
This model means most of non-lecture classroom-based time will be students working in their small groups of seven to eight students. The instructor’s role is to design the cases, ask challenging questions and then emphasize, reinforce, highlight, and clarify key teaching points throughout the session through the case debriefs.
Case application questions balance the line between too easy and too hard:
If questions are too easy: Can’t have spirited discussion when all teams agree on answers.
If questions are too hard: Predictable frustration if groups of well-prepared students cannot arrive at the most reasonable answer because question has design flaws or requires outside knowledge
Here are eight great types of questions that can be incorporated into application exercises:
- What is the key phrase in the case that will cause you to proceed down a particular path?
Change a variable:
- If variable X is changed in the case, how would your approach change?
- You can only order one test from this list. Which is the best one to choose? Why?
- What is the BEST choice, given the case history? Why?
- What’s the NEXT best choice to make?
- Give groups the decision, then ask them to provide a rationale for it.
- Given a particular pathophysiological insult, have groups determine what caused it.
- Given the case history and a particular course of action, what will the outcome be?
- Rank tests, procedures, medications, in order of importance vis-à-vis the case history or learned protocol. Have the group explain why they decided on that order.
If you’re a faculty member looking for assistance with preparing to teaching using TBL methods, please get in touch. If you’re a student with feedback on a particular SGL session or TBL in general, please get in touch, too. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
* As an aside, TLA is the three-letter acronym for three-letter acronyms.
Sweet, M. & Michaelsen L.K. (eds) (2012) Team-Based Learning in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Sterling, Virginia: Styllus Publishing LCC (and Kubitz & Lightner in this volume)
Harris, S.A. and Watson, K.J. (1-1-1997), Small Group Techniques: Selecting and Developing Activities Based on Stages of Group Development. University of Nebraska- Lincoln. digitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln Paper 378
Five ways to get moving on your summer reading plans
I worked at my campus’ library to help pay for my first university degree. The evening hours worked well with my coursework, the commute was great (walk across the quad!), and I was surrounded by books.
This last point was both a blessing and a curse: my “to be read” list grew and grew with each shift, whether I was shelving returns or stamping the university logo on newly-acquired tomes for the collection. Each book I came across was ripe with possibilities.
We all have a TBR “pile”: either physically in the form of stacks of books or journals, or virtually as a list (written or mental). Summer can be an ideal time to catch up on “required” reading or savour something from the “just for fun” section but sometimes getting started can stall you in the stacks. Try these five steps to get down to precious reading time.
1. Cull the pile. If it’s been a while since you organized your pile, don’t be afraid to remove titles. Your needs and interests may have changed in the intervening months. And something that seemed highly relevant back in January might not be as appealing now. Also, if you start a book and find it’s not living up to its promise, ditch it. Why waste your time? I give a book 40-50 pages to impress me; otherwise, I move on. (This works for non-fiction and fiction alike).
2. Set the time. We schedule times for meetings, but reading – even to keep up with our professions – often drops to the “squeeze it in somewhere” category. Consider scheduling 30 minutes a day of dedicated reading time. Can’t manage one half-hour slot? If it’s something you plan for, you could break it into two 15-minute chunks. Stow the book in your briefcase or make sure it’s downloaded to your eReader. Experiment to see what works.
Do you have a favourite way of managing your TBR pile? Is there an app or computer program or maybe a filing system that works for you? Please share!
3. Balance topics. Are you reading for professional development or diversion – or maybe both? Make time for each. Feeding your spirit can be just as valuable as the latest journal article in your field. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll set out to read something “for fun” and find that it actually has relevance to your current course work literature review…
4. Curate excerpts. Sure, there are some books that require a start-to-finish reading strategy, but sometimes reading a single chapter can give us the information or tools we’re looking for. Some books are even designed this way. Make use of Introductions and Tables of Contents to find what’s relevant to you and just read that.
5. Turn to tech. How can tools you already use help with your TBR list? I routinely use my iPhone to read journal articles in those “gap” times — when I’m early for an appointment, waiting to catch the bus home or to pick up my son from an activity.
Next on my reading schedule:
Peripheral visions: Learning along the way by Mary Catherine Bateson (1995)
Recommendations from my recent reading (aka, my attempt to add to your TBR pile):
Invisible women: Data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado Perez (2019)
Spark by Patricia Leavy (a novel that explores the challenges of designing and conducting research). (2019)
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown (2012)
What’s on your summer reading schedule?
A version of this post original appeared here in July 2014
How to spend your summer not-vacation
There’s a different rhythm to summer at the medical school. Yes, this involves some vacation time, but it also involves getting many things done that get set aside during the university academic year.
For those involved in classroom-based teaching, the summer interval is an opportunity to review, reflect and revise teaching for the upcoming semesters. With this in mind, here’s my suggestion for tackling this task this summer:
A 4-R To-Do List for Summer 2019
What you review will depend on your role in the UGME program. If you’re a course director, for example, re-read your course evaluation report, your own teaching evaluation report, and any notes you may have made through the year about how things went. Did the student curricular reps have any feedback for you during your course? Re-read these emails. Have a look to see if any of the MCC presentations assigned to your course may have changed (we update our list as the Council updates its presentations).
If you’re an instructor in a course, read through your notes on your learning events and your instructor evaluation report. Read through your teaching materials and your learning event pages on Elentra (our LMS, formerly called MEdTech).
Did you set aside any journal articles relevant to your field with a sticky-note saying “save for next year”? Now is the time to pull that out!
Once you’ve reviewed relevant materials, think about your teaching. Did things go the way you wanted them to? Are there aspects of the past year that you’re really proud of and want to retain? Are there things that didn’t go as smoothly that you’d like to address next time? Are there things that went quite well, but you’d like to shake things up or experiment with something new? For anything that’s changed in your field, how might this impact your planning and teaching?
Decide what you’d like to change or address in next year’s teaching. Think about what’s manageable within the scope of your course or other responsibilities. Maybe you’ve seen some of the e-modules used in other courses and think one would fit with yours and make your teaching more effective. Maybe you’d like to enhance your existing cases to incorporate other curricular objectives assigned to your course. Maybe things are going pretty well, but you’d just like to shift things around a bit. Call me! I can help brainstorm and talk about timelines to set your plan in motion.
Many of us in medical education – and academia in general – have a lengthy summer to-do list that involves not only preparation for the next teaching cycle, but catching up on many other things, too. Sometimes that summer list can become overwhelming, so remember to take some time to relax and disconnect a bit from the “med ed” side of you: take some strolls along the lake, eat a popsicle or an ice cream cone. Do quintessential summer things that have nothing to do with any to-do list.
The TRC Calls to Action require a personal response
The 94 Calls to Action from the historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission demand response and action from governments and institutions. Seven of these Calls to Action focus on Health and Healthcare issues. For those of us with the privilege to be involved in medical education, there is a particular focus on #23 and #24:
23. We call upon all levels of government to:
i. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field.
ii. Ensure the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities.
iii. Provide cultural competency training for all healthcare professionals.
24. We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
Yes, an institutional response is required and is underway and has been and will be written about here and elsewhere. (In particular, look for future Education Team posts about curricular and teaching responses). But the Calls to Action also require a personal, individual response and this is, in some ways, harder.
I’ve been wrestling with my own response. Here’s some of that…
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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings exposed events long ignored in mainstream history curricula. I prided myself on being a student of history, of recognizing the foibles of historical records – the victor writes the books – and yet I found myself saying over and over again: “How did I not know this?” How was this never a part of the quaint lessons about Indians in my Grade 3 Reader, nor in the more sophisticated history books at King’s and Dal? How is it I could be so oblivious?
At the same time, I wanted to distance myself from any responsibility for these historical wrongs. For example: I’ve been at events where people introduce themselves with descriptors, such as their clan or First Nation affiliation, or, for people like me using the term “Settler”. I’ve always bristled at this. I don’t self-identify as a “Settler.” For me, “settler” implies agency, suggests choice. What choice did I have about where I was born? Extending this further, my pre-Confederation poor Acadian and Irish ancestors in rural New Brunswick likely weren’t concerned with much beyond day-to-day survival, and I’m sure were good people, so, they’re not responsible either. Right?
But I did have a choice when I moved to Kingston in 2006: when I moved to these traditional lands of a different nation. I don’t even know the historical relationship, if any, between the Wolastqiyik (the preferred name of the people I grew up knowing as Maliseet) and the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee. I never even thought about it vis-à-vis my discomfort with “settler”.
During his recent three-day visit to Queen’s, sponsored by the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr. Barry Lavallee, a member of Manitoba First Nation and Métis communities, and a family physician specializing in Indigenous health and northern practice, pointed out that we can’t accept the status quo. We must consider who supports our ignorance and for what purpose. We are also responsible to recognize what phenomena support our own positions of privilege and power. And what to do with that power.
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When I picked my Twitter handle in 2010, I wanted something unique – not @Theresa487 or something like that – and, wistfully, I wanted something that reminded me of home. I opted for the “original” Indigenous name of my New Brunswick hometown (the colonial-corrupted spelling, I later learned, but home nonetheless). So I became @Welamooktook. It reminded me of the place, the land, where I had roots, and family, and history.
But those same reasons I picked it became reasons to let it go. My original feelings and sentiments were sound, but I couldn’t escape the cultural appropriation, the feeling of wrongness it came to mean, as I reflected and wrestled with it.
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A year ago, as part of an Education course I was taking, my classmates and I were encouraged to go to an exhibition of Kent Monkman’s artwork at the Agnes Etherington Art Gallery, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience.
The entire installation was thought-provoking, emotional, and disturbing. One painting, in particular, haunted me: The Scream (2017). As I stood looking at this large painting depicting “the exact moment Indigenous children were taken from their parents”, I focused on three young people in the background, at the right, running away. Running away from the red-serge Mounties I had grown up looking up to. The trio running in the back are dressed in jeans and hoodies and look like teenagers I would see anywhere in Kingston.
They looked like my son.
This made it real for me. Made it close enough to touch. Close enough to imagine.
My son has a hoodie like that.
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The TRC demands a response but that response is not guilt – or denial. It’s self-reflection. And compassion. And empathy. And action.
It’s relinquishing a cherished Twitter handle because it’s the right thing to do.
It’s stumbling through a territory acknowledgement because I’m still getting my Maritime tongue around Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee when Wolastqiyik is easier. And trying to go beyond the scripted suggestion to address relationships, and thoughts about land and people.
It’s accepting the self-descriptor “descendant of settlers” because that’s accurate and real and it matters.
It’s working with my physician colleagues to ensure sound curricular and clinical experiences that, as Dr. Lavelle described, gives our students “the ability to treat the person in front of them based on their experiences without judgment.”
It’s wrestling with getting all of these meandering ideas and feelings into words to share in this blog, because we all need to be part of this conversation — all the while worrying it’s arrogant or insulting or inadequate.
In his workshop, Dr. Lavallee urged us to use reflection to address our response to new information. And he challenged us: “When you feel the discomfort, move into it, because that’s where the learning occurs.”
We tell our students to ask questions and then listen: Patients have the information and will share it. I learned the same in my previous career as a journalist. Ask questions, but most importantly listen to the answers. Even when the answer is uncomfortable, is difficult, is challenging. That’s the personal response.
Spring UGME retreat May 28
The spring UG Education retreat is coming up on May 28 at the Donald Gordon Conference Centre.
Designed primarily for course directors, unit leads, intrinsic role leads and others in educational leadership roles in our Undergraduate Medical Education program, this annual day-long event provides opportunities for information sharing and faculty development in planning for the next academic year.
The morning agenda includes an update from Associate Dean Anthony Sanfilippo as well as sessions on the progress test and quality assurance, accreditation & program evaluation. There will also be brief updates from the Librarian team at Bracken Library about new resources, and from the course team about the Human Structure & Function curriculum renewal.
The afternoon will begin with our guest speaker, Melissa Forgie, MD, FRCPC, MSc, Vice dean, UGME, University of Ottawa. She will speak on Embracing Diversity in Medical Education
Break out sessions will follow, including a working session for pre-clerkship course directors to build or revise assessment plans for next year and a clerkship course directors’ session on continued EPA/CBME implementation.
If you contribute to the Queen’s UGME program, please join us for all or part of the day. To register, use this link: https://queensfhs.wufoo.com/forms/ugme-may-28-retreat-registration/
Inaugural FHS Interprofessional Symposium on Leadership
Interprofessional education is a priority in undergraduate medicine, as it is in our fellow health professions programs in the Faculty of Health Sciences in the School of Nursing and School of Rehabilitation Therapy.
Early this month (or last month, if you’re reading this after Tuesday), we brought together over 300 students from nursing (fourth-year undergraduates), medicine (second-year undergraduate program), occupational therapy (first-year master’s) and physiotherapy (first-year master’s) at the Leon’s Centre for a one-day symposium with a particular focus on leadership.
A key challenge in creating interprofessional learning opportunities is coordinating time, space, and learning objectives of independent programs with different classroom and clinical schedules. A committee of representatives from four programs, including student representatives, tackled this challenge earlier this year, working collaboratively to create the program and learning activities for the symposium. The day included plenary speakers, interactive case studies, and a bit of fun along the way.
Our plenary speakers included Dr. David Walker, former FHS dean; Lori Proulx Professional Practice Leader -Nursing and Kim Smith Professional Practice Leader Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy from Kingston Health Sciences Centre; and Duncan Sinclair, former vice-principal of Health Sciences
Students were seated in interprofessional table groups to engage in discussions around cases and use IP tools for decision making.
We’ve taken lessons learned from organizing this event as well as formal and information feedback from students and other participants to carry forward to the next iteration of the symposium.
Med Students’ activities extend beyond the classroom
It’s that time of the new year when the winter doldrums can set it – weather and routine can weigh everyone down. Along with that, there’s that old cliché about “all work and no play”. There’s little risk of our medical students being thought of as anything approaching dull and they provide great ideas for how to beat the winter blahs. In addition to their full class and study load, they make time for a wide variety of extra-curricular activities for fun, recreation and community involvement.
Aesculapian Society President Rae Woodhouse recently shared some highlights of these endeavours:
In early January, 68 pre-clerks attended the annual MedGames in Montreal and placed 2nd of everyone outside of Quebec. Sponsored by the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS), MedGames brings together medical students from across the country for a friendly sports competition and network building.
Thirty-one second year students competed in BEWICS. This is the annual Queen’s Intramural sports competition which features a variety of self-proclaimed “quirky” sports such as water volleyball and rugby basketball. The QMed team placed third overall for competitiveness and spirit.
The Class of 2021 Class Project Committee hosted Queens’ first ever Scholars At Risk Talk (see more on this here).
Pre-clerk students recently competed in the Ottawa’s Winterlude Ice Dragon Boat competition and about 30 went on the annual ski trip to Mont-Tremblant two weekends ago.
And if ice dragon boating and skiing weren’t enough of a challenge, about 45 students from across the four years spent a couple of hours recently learning the basics of curling from a fourth year student. This is the fourth time for this event!
For Wellness month, the Wellness committee put together a month of activities with each week having a theme: social, physical, mental and nutritional wellness. During physical wellness week, 40 pre-clerks did a Crossfit class and 20 did a spin class taught by the AS Wellness Officer.
The 2nd annual Jacalyn Duffin Health and Humanities conference happened recently and was very well received.
This past weekend, 20 students went to NYC to learn about the history of medicine, led by Dr. Jenna Healey (Hannah History of Medicine Chair) and the What Happened In Medicine Historical Society.
And, over 100 mentorship group members attend trivia at the Grad Club. (Take note of that, it could be a future trivia question!)
Singing the praises of learning objectives
This past Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the Kingston Symphony’s matinee performance of Gene Kelly: A Life in Music at the Grand Theatre. The show featured clips from Kelly’s most memorable performances, with live musical accompaniment by the symphony, under the direction of Evan Mitchell.
Throughout the show, Kelly’s wife and biographer, Patricia Ward Kelly, shared anecdotes and Kelly’s own insights into his choreography and performances.
She talked about the work he put into creating dances, painstakingly writing out the choreography plan, before working with his fellow performers to perfect the dances themselves. “He didn’t just show up and wiggle around on the stage,” she said.
My educational developer lens instantly compared this to the framework provided by well-written learning objectives. Objectives focus teaching and learning plans, and contribute to authentic assessment.
Yes, this is another blog about learning objectives.
In the abstract, learning objectives seem like just another box on a checklist or hoop to jump through. Used the way intended, however, they are signposts that guide learning and teaching plans effectively—whether for a class or a single person—the same way Kelly’s planning delivered award-winning and inspiring choreography.
Yes, there’s a “gold standard” for writing objectives (that I’ve written about previously here). And there are verbs to use—and ones to avoid—and if it doesn’t come naturally to you to think this way, it can be pretty tedious.
What it’s really about is planning: knowing what you’re setting out to do. If you have an objective—a goal—then you can make your plan and communicate it to others effectively.
Well-crafted objectives also make things great for assessment, because it’s very clear what you have to measure at the end of the lesson, course, or program.
If you say, “I’m going to get better at taking patient histories” – what does that mean? What does “better” look like? If it means, “I’m going to note down details, or I’m going to ask specific questions, or I’m going to listen more than I have been, or interrupt less… then you know what you need to work on. You know what the focus needs to be, whether you’re a learner or a teacher.
Eventually, you’ll be able to do a history without thinking things through so deliberately – once you’ve achieved fluidity in that skill. But before it’s a habit, you need to plan, your checklist, and I’m hitting all the boxes? Not just: “be better”.
For example, one of my plans in 2018 was to read more books that weren’t medical education and weren’t related to my PhD coursework. “Read more for fun.” That was it. My objective was pretty vague and, as a result, I didn’t create a workable plan. “Read more” didn’t get me very far. I read parts of eight non-work-related and non-course-related books. And three of those were cookbooks.
I set a more specific objective for 2019 that I would read more by spending five minutes every morning before I left for work reading something from my “recreational” “to be read” book stack (mountain).
I’ve finished two books, which is already a 200% improvement over last year. That specificity can make a difference.
And that’s really all objectives are: an outcome statement to focus your plan.
And that’s why we focus highlight objectives in our competency framework. It’s why we map things to them—learning events, assessments, EPAs—so we can be consistent and everybody knows what the plan is.
How much detail do you need in your objectives? This depends on how granularly you need to communicate your goals in order to be effective.
For his iconic Singin’ in the Rain, Gene Kelly had to map out the location of each of the puddles. His plan needed to be that detailed to get it right.
If you’re wrestling with learning objectives and how these relate to your teaching, give me a call.
A holiday reading list on leadership and change
In his keynote address at the UGME fall faculty retreat on December 10, Dr. Gary Tithecott addressed the topic of Leading change for success in medical education during challenging times. Dr. Tithecott is Associate Dean, Undergraduate Medical Education at Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University.
During his presentation, Dr. Tithecott cited a few books and mentioned others as worth delving into. As I like to do here, I’ve created a “Top 5” list from those he mentioned (OK, it’s actually six books, as he recommended two from a single author). These books are practical and accessible reads with clear advice, he said.
There’s still time to add some or all of these to your holiday wish list.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
The traditional attitude – Fixed Mindset – dictated that your fate is determined by skill you have genetically and that you demonstrate, Dr. Tithecott explained. With a Growth Mindset , by contrast, asserts that with dedication, encouragement and effort you can learn from and with others to increase your ceiling.
Since one key responsibility for a leader is to develop other people, a Growth Mindset is essential, he said. Citing an article from Forbes magazine, he noted a Growth Mindset allows leaders to
- Be open-minded
- Be comfortable with ambiguity & uncertainty
- Have strong situational awareness
- have a greater sense of preparedness
- have clarity on what others expect
- Take ownership
- Grow with people
- Eliminate mediocrity and complacency
- Break down silos
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
One key to success in leadership, Tithecott said, is in the power of working hard and sticking to it. For a leader it’s supporting someone to go outside of their box. He quoted Duckworth:
Grit, in a word, is stamina. But it’s not just stamina in your effort. It’s also stamina in your direction, stamina in your interests. If you are working on different things but all of them very hard, you’re not really going to get anywhere. You’ll never become an expert.
Leading Change and XLR8 by John P. Kotter
OK, this is actually TWO books, not one. Noting that no talk on change and change leadership is complete without including Kotter, Dr. Tithecott recommended both Leading Change and the more recent XLR8.
He reviewed Kotter’s list of why change fails:
- Not Establishing a Great Enough Sense of Urgency
- Not Creating a Powerful Enough Guiding Coalition
- Lacking a Vision
- Under communicating the Vision by a Factor of Ten
- Not Removing Obstacles to the New Vision
- Not Systematically Planning for, and Creating, Short-Term Wins
- Declaring Victory Too Soon
- Not Anchoring Changes in the Corporation’s Culture
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
The symbolism of leaders eating last – exemplified by the US Marine Corp chow line, described by Sinek – points to leaders who put their team first. This in turn, leads to more acceptance of the challenges of change, Tithecott said.
The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma
Leadership can be found in different places and doesn’t necessarily mean the person “at the top”. Where and how leadership for change can be developed can vary, Tithecott said, recommending Sharma’s book.