Five ways to ramp up your teaching
It’s February, and despite the recent Family Day holiday, we’re still stuck in the depths of winter. Things are just a little harder to get excited about when it’s bleak, cold and snowy. Add in the task of teaching something that’s become routine, and the doldrums can be nearly certain to set in.
It can be a challenge for experts to teach introductory content. This can be further exacerbated by the cycle of teaching: each year brings another round of the same—or very similar—material. When the key advice of reminding yourself that while this is the hundredth time you’ve taught this, it’s the first time for these learners just isn’t enough, how can you get excited about teaching for the 101st time?
Here are five suggestions to ramp up your enthusiasm and freshen your teaching:
- Back to basics: What do you want your learners to know or be able to do when you’re done? Sometimes when teaching becomes routine, we’re in danger of losing focus on the goal. Make a quick list of your key take-away points. If you’re not sure, take some time to reflect and then make any necessary revisions to your teaching plan.
- Add some feedback: Add in some formative assessment either partway through your learning event, or partway through your sessions if you are teaching multiple times. This gives you—and them—feedback partway through to make sure things are clear. Formative assessment can be individual or team-based and doesn’t necessarily have marks attached. It can be as simple as an online poll to gauge understanding of a key concept.
- Refresh the page: Since the underlying concepts haven’t changed, it’s easy to slip into a rut of repeating yourself. Even if it’s new to this group of learners, you’ll be more engaged if you freshen your cases, or revise the background materials you assign. Is there something in the news or new research that’s timely and on-point?
- Toss in technology: It may strike you as gimmicky, but using technology can freshen “old” material. Consider incorporating PollEverywhere’s polling (which you can use for #2 above) or incorporating a short video for discussion. (I can set you up with a PollEverywhere account in about two minutes and teach you how to use it in 5-10 minutes).
- Ask for input: Bounce ideas around with colleagues, brainstorm with others teaching in your course. Ask your course director for feedback. If you’re the course director, that conversation can work both ways: ask for input from your team.
Keeping things fresh for yourself can help your learners. Your excitement and enthusiasm contributes to a climate of learning. If you’re looking for more ways to shake things up but you’d like some customized advice, get in touch with the Education Team.
Focus groups: what they are and how we use them
By Theresa Suart, Educational Developer & Eleni Katsoulas, Assessment & Evaluation Consultant
Amongst the plethora of student feedback we solicit about our courses, you may wonder why we sometimes add in focus groups. What could be added to the more than a dozen questions on course evaluation and faculty feedback surveys?
The information we gather in student focus groups doesn’t replace the very valuable narrative feedback from course evaluations, rather, it allows us to ask targeted questions, clarify responses and drill down into the data.
Developed from “focused interviews” around the time of the Second World War, focus groups emerged as a key qualitative research tool in the latter half of the 20th century. Robert K. Merton, a sociologist from Columbia University, is hailed as the “father of the focus group.” (He died in 2003 at age 92.)
Merton used focused interviews to gain insight into groups’ responses to text, radio programs and films. Politicians and marketing companies soon seized upon focus groups to gauge voter and consumer trends. The Queen’s UGME Education Team uses focus groups in a targeted way to augment information gleaned from course evaluation feedback, course director’s meetings with academic reps and other feedback tools.
According to a briefing paper from Carnegie Mellon University, focus groups are “particularly effective” for eliciting suggestions for improvement. “They are also much more flexible than surveys or scales because they allow for question clarification and follow-up questions to probe vague or unexpected responses.” It also helps that faculty rate focus groups as “accurate, useful and believable”.
If you’re asked to participate in a focus group, only agree if you think you have something to contribute to the investigator’s project or purpose. (Sure, it’s fun to come for the free food, but be prepared to contribute in a meaningful way).
What you can expect when you take part in a focus group:
- To be informed if the focus group is for research or curricular innovation (or both). Research studies must have approval from the Research Ethics Board and require specific paperwork to document informed consent. Curricular innovation focus groups are less formal, but will still respect confidentiality of participants. These might not have the same paperwork.
- The facilitator to set the ground rules, and guide the discussion. Savvy facilitators will do this with a minimum of fuss: they will listen more than they speak. (But you can certainly ask for clarification if you’re not sure of a question).
- A co-facilitator will likely take notes and monitor any recording equipment used. The co-facilitator may summarize after each question and solicit further input as required.
- You’ll be asked specific questions, and engage in conversation with the other participants.
What you shouldn’t expect:
- A venting session. This isn’t the time to just complain. A focus group is looking for constructive feedback and suggested solutions.
- To always have your say: the facilitator may realize they have reached saturation on a particular question and will move on. This is to respect your time. (You’ll have an opportunity to send additional comments electronically afterwards if you felt there is an important point that was missed).
What you can do to prepare:
- If the questions are provided in advance (this is best practice but not always possible on tight timelines!) you should take some time to think about them.
- Be sure you know where the meeting room is, and arrive on time.
What you can do during:
- Contribute, but make sure you don’t end up dominating the conversation. The facilitator will be looking for a balance of views and contributors.
- Listen attentively to others and avoid interrupting. The facilitator will make sure everyone has a chance to contribute – you’ll get your turn.
What you can expect from data collected at a focus group:
- It will be confidential. Different strategies are employed. For example, you may be assigned a number during the focus group and participants asked to refer to people by number (“Participant 2 said…”).
- In a formal research study, you should be offered an opportunity to review the data transcript after it is prepared. (This is sometimes waived on the consent form, so read carefully so you can have realistic expectations of the investigator).
- The end product is a summary of the conversation, with any emergent themes identified to answer the research questions.
What you can’t expect:
- A magic bullet solution to a challenge in a course or class.
- One hundred percent consensus from all participants – you can agree to disagree.
- For all outlier opinions to be represented in the final report. These may be omitted from summary reports.
We’re always grateful to our students for donating their time to our various focus group requests throughout the year. These contributions are invaluable.
For course directors: If you think this type of data collection could be useful in your course review and revisions, feel free to get in touch. It’s one of the tools in our qualitative research toolbox and we’re happy to deploy it for you as may be appropriate.
Eleni Katsoulas email@example.com
Theresa Suart firstname.lastname@example.org
Students enthusiastically endorsed Dr. James Makokis as inaugural M. Nancy Tatham & Donna Henderson Lecturer
Public Lecture on Decolonizing Medicine is October 23 at 5 p.m.
Creating an inclusive space for transgender and Two-spirit people in medicine will be the focus of the inaugural Dr. M. Nancy Tatham & Donna Henderson Lectureship October 23 at the Queen’s School of Medicine Britton Smith Lecture Theatre (Room 132 at 15 Arch Street), at 5 p.m.
Dr. James Makokis, a Two-spirit Cree Family physician (and recent winner of the Amazing Race Canada with his partner Anthony Johnson) is the first Dr. M. Nancy Tatham & Donna Henderson Lecturer. The lectureship is organized by the School of Medicine’s Undergraduate Diversity Panel.
The students of the medical school class of 2022 who participate in the Diversity Panel enthusiastically put forward Dr. Makokis to be the first speaker for this lectureship. The students felt that inviting Dr. Makokis to speak would promote important conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion in medicine. They see this as an opportunity to learn from the experience and work of Dr. Makokis as it relates to indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities, intersectionality, and making medicine a safe space for all patients.
The students who are organizing and supporting this talk are doing so in order to promote safe, equitable care for all patient populations. It is known that diversity is an important factor in medicine, as different patient populations have different experiences and viewpoints. The goal of providing excellent compassionate care for all in medicine, can be hindered by biases and lack of awareness, and events such as this increase awareness and bring to light our biases.
The diversity panel and the generous donors promoting this event see this as a chance for students, faculty, and members of the community to come together and learn, to take a step toward making the practice of medicine more inclusive. Dr. Mala Joneja, Director of Diversity and Equity for the School of Medicine invites everyone to attend and be a part of this step forward. She invites everyone, students and faculty in the Faculty of Health Sciences to come and simply listen and understand. Events such as these are important for members of marginalized groups but also for those who wish to be allies. An ally is someone who, though not a member of an underrepresented group, takes action to support that group. She emphasized that all physicians can be allies to underrepresented and marginalized communities and attending the upcoming lecture is a great first step towards allyship.
Dr. Makokis holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Sciences, a Master of Health Science in Community Nutrition and a Doctorate in Medicine. He also received certification from the Aboriginal Family Medicine Training Program. He is a leader and well-known expert within the Indigenous, LGBTQ2 and medical community.
Dr. Makokis has maintained his cultural beliefs and spiritual practices in all areas of his life. His strong connections to preventative health, spirituality, and Two-spirit perspective has helped him save lives within the LGBTQ2 and First Nation communities. He also leads one of North America’s most progressive and successful transgender focused medical practices.
The Dr. M. Nancy Tatham & Donna Henderson Lectureship was established in 2018 through a donation from Dr. Tatham and Ms. Henderson to support bringing speakers to campus on issues related to diversity and inclusion, specifically in areas related to LGBTQ+ topics, Indigenous issues, and other areas of diversity relevant to the practice of medicine. Although the primary intended audience is medical students, everyone is very welcome to attend.
Disorientation can be the first step to learning
Have your ever found yourself in a new course or job and wondered how the heck you got yourself into this terrible situation? It could be something you strived for actively for years and sought out for yourself. (Yes, I know that describes many medical students, but also people in new jobs, and students in other graduate programs like the one I’m in at the Faculty of Education).
Often, in a new situation – even one we’ve chosen – we can feel less competent than we did in our previous circumstances, and scramble around to figure out why something we wanted has turned out so poorly right off the bat. Generally, adult learners are used to feeling competent in their lives, work, and previous educational endeavors. New situations can rob (or mask) that previously-developed competence.
Using Taylor’s Model of the Learning Cycle can help with these feelings and ensure you stay focused on moving ahead, rather than getting stuck in the “I’ve made a terrible mistake” self-talk.
First articulated by Marilyn Taylor in 1979, then refined in 1987, this cycle explores learning from the learner’s perspective.
Taylor described the learning cycle as one of Disorientation, followed by Exploration, then Reorientation, culminating in Equilibrium – then, for lifelong learners, a new period of Disorientation as the cycle begins again. Within each of these four stages are other predictable and/or possible stages, opportunities and solutions.
Although Taylor focused on inquiry-based learning, I’ve found the model can apply to any new learning situation for adults including, as mentioned above, starting a new job or new professional role.
Here’s Taylor’s Model of the Learning Cycle in a nutshell, based on a chapter from Dorothy MacKeracher’s Making Sense of Adult Learning (2004) (Disclosure of potential for bias: I was introduced to this model by Dr. MacKeracher during my BEd studies and she was later my supervisor for my master’s degree).
The model begins with the learner entering a new situation, often described as a “disconfirming event or destabilizing experience” which highlights a “major discrepancy between expectations and reality”. The change can be starting a new course or program, starting a new job, new technology being introduced at work, or a change of circumstances related to aging or health.
The disorientation comes about when the new situation isn’t routine. The learner no longer feels competent or capable, which can result in a crisis in self-confidence. (The questions of “why did I sign up for this?” or “who thought I’d be good here?” are common in this phase.)
When a learner experiences confusion, anxiety and rising tension, the learner frequently withdraws from others because of feelings of inadequacy.
As MacKeracher notes: “in formal learning programs, the person most frequently blamed is the facilitator” for things such as not providing enough direction or clear instructions, or “not being helpful”.
Some people get stuck in this phase and focus on immediate – but misguided – solutions. For example, assuming the problem is lack of control, so trying to be more organized, but not really moving forward. (I’ve called this my “rearrange the chairs on the Titanic” mode. It’s not a productive place).
The exploration phase begins when the learner “can name the central issue and make contact with others,” MacKeracher explains. “The individual becomes engaged in searching for information or ideas that could assist in resolving the identified problem.” The key here is to look for information or ideas that will make things better, not a superficial quick fix. This could involve exploring new study habits, identifying training gaps and solutions, or considering new points of view or attitudes (depending on the learning situation).
Towards the end of the exploration phase, the learner may withdraw from others somewhat to think things over, but this is not the avoidance of the disorientation phase, rather a time for thoughtful reflection and planning to make a transition.
The transition to the reorientation phase is characterized by “integrat[ing] ideas and experience to provide a new understanding of the issue [or circumstance]” that caused the disorientation in the first place. “The learner consciously acknowledges that learning is a process in which he or she is the agent.”
As implied by its name, this phase is far more settled than the previous three, or, as MacKeracher writes: “this phase involves a much reduced emotional intensity.” Learners may consolidate, refine, and apply their new perspective and skills and share them with others in different context “or tested out as new behaviour in new settings.”
(And then back to disorientation…)
Sometimes people move through these phases instinctively, but if you’re feeling stuck – disorientated – working through Taylor’s Learning Model consciously can be helpful. Sometimes, it’s just reassuring to know “this is a phase” and you’ll come out the other side stronger, resilient, and competent in your new circumstances.
This is, admittedly, a simplified overview of Taylor’s Learning Cycle Model. Feel free to drop by my office for further discussion or to borrow my copy of MacKeracher’s Making Sense of Adult Learning.
Celebrating teaching and learning
This week the School of Medicine joins the other schools in the Faculty of Health Science for a Teaching & Learning Celebration featuring guest speaker Dr. Nicole Harder.
Dr. Harder, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, and the Mindermar Professor in Human Simulation, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, will present the Susman Family Lecture on October 3 at 4 p.m. at the Britton Smith Lecture Theatre (Room 132) at the School of Medicine.
Dr. Harder’s position is an interdisciplinary one which includes simulation-based education and research for the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Rehabilitation Sciences, Nursing, and Pharmacy. Her current work is creating, implementing, and studying the use of a psychologically safe debriefing framework following expected and unexpected patient death in simulation and clinical experiences with health care students and practitioners.
For the Susman Family Lecture on Thursday, Dr. Harder’s topic is “Safety for all: Interprofessional simulation and non-technical competency development.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in Canada, medical errors contribute in upwards of 23,750 deaths per year, one million added days in hospital, and approximately $750 million in extra health spending. While various strategies and technologies have been implemented to reduce these errors, they have demonstrated inconsistent improvements or even reductions in patient safety. In contrast, simulation-based learning has demonstrated effectiveness in improving safety competencies. In this presentation, Dr. Nicole Harder will discuss the role of interprofessional simulation in patient safety, and argue that a significant shift is needed to ensure that students and healthcare practitioners are afforded the opportunities to engage meaningfully in interprofessional simulation activities that will allow them to grow and develop the skills required for today’s healthcare practitioners.
Following Dr. Harder’s presentation, teaching innovators from medicine, rehabilitation, and nursing will also share presentations:
School of Medicine – Using Wikipedia as a platform for teaching EBM, presented by Dr. Heather Murray
School of Rehabilitation – Innovation in Teaching a Research course to a Large Class with Diverse Backgrounds, presented by Dr. Setareh Ghahari and Dr. Mohammad Auais
School of Nursing -From competence to capability in the clinical setting, presented by Ms. Jennie McNichols
Friday morning, Dr. Harder will lead Health Sciences Education Rounds ( 8 – 9 a.m.) in Room 104, Richardson Laboratories. Her Friday presentation will explore “Using simulation as a pedagogy: Who’s who in the (sim) zoo?” Video-streaming is available at Providence Care Hospital: PCH D2.069 Videoconference Rm A. Anyone unable to attend Education Rounds at either Richard Labs or Providence Care Hospital may listen remotely by joining this ZOOM call at the appropriate time: https://zoom.us/j/165499888
Simulation as a teaching and learning pedagogy is not new. What is new is the availability of technology and the changing landscape of the education learning environment. While the term active learning activities are frequently discussed among educators as a means to bring learning to life, there is nothing more active that a simulation based experience. From students to faculty, to researchers and administrators, we all have different roles in developing and implementing simulation. This session will discuss the various roles that we all have in developing and implementing simulation as an active learning strategy, and provide the audience with some suggestions on how to make the most of their time with students.
Registration for each event is appreciated but not required.
Thursday: Susman Family Lecture and FHS innovators: https://healthsci.queensu.ca/faculty-staff/cpd/programs/tlc2019
Friday: Health Science Education Rounds: https://healthsci.queensu.ca/faculty-staff/cpd/programs/hsernicoleharder
8th Annual Medical Student Research Showcase
By Drs. Heather Murray & Melanie Walker
This year the School of Medicine is proud to invite you to the 8th annual Medical Student Research Showcase on Wednesday September 18.
This event celebrates the research achievements of our undergraduate medical students, with both posters and an oral plenary session featuring research performed by students while they have been enrolled in medical school. All students who received summer studentship research funding through the School of Medicine in 2019 will be presenting their work, as well as many other research initiatives. The posters will be displayed in the David Walker atrium of the School of Medicine building from 8 am until 5 pm, with the students standing at their posters answering questions between 10:30 and noon.
The oral plenary features the top research projects selected by a panel of faculty judges, and will run in room 132A from noon until 1:30 pm on September 18, immediately following the poster session Q&A.
This year’s faculty judges included:
- Dr. Sheela Abraham
- Dr. Nazanin Alavi
- Dr. Anne Ellis
- Dr. Jennifer Flemming
- Dr. Laura Gaudet
- Dr. Faiza Khurshid
- Dr. Diane Lougheed
- Dr. David Maslove
- Dr. Lois Mulligan
- Dr. Chris Nicol
- Dr. Stephen Pang
- Dr. Michael Rauh
- Dr. Damian Redfearn
- Dr. Claudio Soares
- Dr. Sonal Varma
- Dr. Maria Velez
We are very grateful to these faculty members for evaluating our oral plenary applicants this year.
The three students who have been selected for the oral plenary session, and the titles of their research presentations and faculty supervisor names are listed below. Each of these three students will receive The Albert Clark Award for Medical Student Research Excellence.
Alison Michels – von Willebrand factor regulates deep vein thrombosis in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity
Katrina Sajewycz – Multidisciplinary Ambulatory Management of Malignant Bowel Obstruction: A Qualitative Study of Gynecologic Cancer Patients’ Experiences and Perceptions
Mehras Motamed – Inhibiting Pyruvate Kinase Muscle Isoform 2 with Shikonin Regresses Supra-coronary Aortic Banding induced Group 2 Pulmonary Hypertension
Please set aside some time to attend the Medical Student Research Showcase on September 18th. The students will appreciate your interest and support, and you will be amazed at what they have been able to achieve.
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 email@example.com
* 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…
* * *
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.