Tag: social accountability
Navigating multiple paths to service-learning projects
Anyone with their ear to the medical education ground in the past year will know that service learning is a very, very hot topic. Ever since the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) endorsed service-learning as an important (but optional) element of the education of future physicians, medical schools across the country have sought to incorporate this as a feature of their curriculum. However, service-learning, by its very nature, can leave students feeling uncomfortable: it’s structured but open-ended.
Consulting with community members to set goals and design projects is not always as straight forward as mastering the objectives of a standard medical course. Unlike other curricular and co-curricular activities, service-learning projects often start with pretty broad objectives. Add in consultation with multiple community stakeholders and the projects themselves can seem quite nebulous at the start.
We’ve written about service-learning on the blog before (here and here) as we’ve continued to develop our approach to encouraging and supporting our students in engaging in service-learning. Service-learning projects are one way our medical students (and pre-medical students, in the case of QuARMS) enhance their understanding of working with community members, explore intrinsic physician roles, and contribute in a very real way to our medical school’s social accountability to our communities.
On a national level, the Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning (CACSL) provides support and networking opportunities for students, educators and communities engaged in these endeavors. At their recent biennial conference held in Calgary, multiple presenters addressed students’ issues with the ambiguity of service-learning projects compared to other learning activities.
When students have the autonomy to define what is happening with a project in cooperation with an organization, they can feel a little lost, one presenter, Chelsea Willness, an assistant professor at the Edwards School of Business at University of Saskatchewan, noted.
“Students are very uncomfortable with the ambiguity: ‘What do you mean, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing?’”
They want templates and checklists because that’s familiar, she added.
It’s clear that while many students are excited about the opportunity to engage with community partners, they both need and want support. Equally important is providing them with reassurances that each project will have its own path – which includes some levels of uncertainty.
Here’s the Queen’s UGME operational definition of service-learning (as there are multiple interpretations of this term):
“Service-learning is a structured learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection. Medical students engaged in service-learning provide community service in response to community-identified concerns and learn about the context in which service is provided, the connection between their service and their academic coursework, and their roles as citizens and professionals.”
One key word in that definition is structured. Providing as much structure as possible can help ease students’ discomfort with some of the ambiguous nature of service-learning. To that end, the Teaching, Learning, and Integration Committee (TLIC) has been assigned oversight of service-learning for undergraduate medical students and has implemented three possible avenues students may use to have a service-learning project recorded on their MSPR.
To launch this, a one-hour session on service-learning was added to the first-year Professional Foundations course earlier this year. This learning event included information on why we’re deliberately supporting extra-curricular and co-curricular service-learning activities as well as information on potential service-learning avenues. As part of this session, members of the Class of 2019 were polled to see what types of service-learning projects they might be interested in and how these might fit in the three paths.
Here are the three paths to a recognized service learning project:
- Participate in an existing student-led volunteer initiative and complete the additional tasks necessary to extend this to a service-learning project
- Complete an individual service-learning project, which meets the requirements (including consultation and reflection)
- Take part in a service-learning pilot project brokered by the TLIC
Dr. Lindsay Davidson (Director of the TLIC) and I have met with representatives from several established student groups whose existing activities were quite close to our service-learning definition and threshold to map out ways their participants could extend their volunteer service into a service-learning project (this is always optional). Typically, this meant documenting some form of consultation and implementing some form of reflection on learning. These groups include SwimAbility (formerly Making Waves) and Jr. Medics. Other groups can be added to this list (email me: email@example.com to set up a meeting about this if your group might fit).
The two initial pilot projects are with Loving Spoonful (an organization with the goal of enhancing access to healthy food) and the Social Planning Council (with a focus on social housing in the Kingston area). These will be longer-term projects with sequential groups of students completing phases of a larger, continuing project. (The first participants have already been identified through the PF class poll. Recruitment of UGME students will be through the TLIC, not through the agencies).
For each of the three paths, students must submit evidence of meeting the threshold for each aspect, using forms provided by the TLIC. These will be made widely available in September using a MEdTech community page. Here are the requirements for any project to be recognized:
- The project must serve the needs of a group in the wider community (i.e., not medical school-focused)
- Complete some form of consultation with community participants and/or stakeholders (this will look different depending on the type of project and service)
- Complete between 15-20 hours of service (with no more than 20% devoted to training)
- Completed a required reflection on learning
In the future, as more students engage in formal service-learning projects, students’ reflections on their learning may be presented at a service-learning showcase, similar to the Undergraduate Research Showcase that is held each year.
While having three different routes to recognized projects may seem to add to the ambiguity of “what does a service-learning project look like”, providing multiple avenues for recognition was important.
“Our students have many different interests and we wanted to leverage that by providing multiple avenues for service-learning projects to be completed and recognized by the school,” Dr. Davidson said.
We’re never going to completely eliminate the ambiguous nature of service-learning projects, but we’re working to put structures in place that can meet a variety of students’ interests and community needs.
With thanks to Dr. Davidson for her contributions to writing this post.
Reducing the Burden of Concussions Through Education
By Chris Griffiths
The Concussion Education, Safety and Awareness Program (CESAP) seeks to reach a broad audience on the prevention, identification and management of concussion injuries. According to the Centre for Disease Control, 65% of all concussions occur in those aged 5-18, and concussions make up 13.2% of high school sports injuries (CDC, 2015). As high school populations are at increased risk of injury, it is important that they are properly educated on the risks they incur by participating in sport, and how to best minimize these dangers. However, a study in Florida examining high school football players, a sport at the highest risk of injury, found that only 1 in 4 received proper concussion education (Cournoyer & Tripp, 2014). As 20% of those injured eventually develop long-term sequelae of concussion, such as depression and anxiety disorders, it is important that schools develop supportive environments for those injured (Hudak et al., 2011). Increased awareness has been demonstrated to increase the likelihood students will adhere to management and prevention strategies, and increase the level of compassion received from their peers (Taylor & Sanner, 2016).
This past fall, a group of medical and graduate students teamed up to work on reducing the burden of concussion in our community. Two second year medical students, Logan Seaman and Chris Griffiths, began working with MSc Neurosciences candidate, Allen Champagne, to develop a free education program for high school students and athletes. With the advice of physicians at Queen’s University, namely Dr Mike O’Connor, Dr Fraser Saunders and Dr Andrea Winthrop, and endless support from the Centre of Neurosciences Studies, CESAP developed a classroom session focused on the biomechanics, symptoms, and management of concussions. With help from students at the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and their faculty, we have put emphasis on the many healthcare professionals who can help in injury rehabilitation around Kingston.
What we believe sets CESAP apart, however, is our behaviour modification and prevention arm. CESAP runs clinics for youth football teams with classroom sessions followed by on field drills led by Queen’s football players to teach proper tackling technique. The drills were developed based on research at the University of New Hampshire, showing that equipmentless drills that focus on fundamentals, or “heads up tackling”, reduced the number of head impacts by 4.4 per game in collegiate athletes (Swartz et al, 2016). CESAP has committed to expanding these principles to other sports, with drills developed for soccer and hockey.
CESAP’s classroom sessions are modified specially for each target audience. While some sections are shortened for particular groups, the structure of each talk is the same. We begin by introducing basic neuroanatomy, localizing different areas of the brain to their function. For senior high school classes, we go into greater depth into axonal structure, and show different imaging modalities such as MRI and Diffusion Tensor Imaging. Emphasizing that concussion is a functional injury, we explain how injury can occur and the symptoms that are caused. The goal is that students can identify unusual behaviour in themselves or their teammates, and encourage them to make a safe choice by removing themselves from play if necessary. We outline red flags or concerning symptomatic developments, and equip students with questions to ask their peers if they suspect injury.
Unfortunately, the reality is that injury does happen. With help from physicians, occupational therapists and physiotherapists in the field, we have compiled the best resources for management plans in concussion rehabilitation. Parents are provided with information on all of the health care professionals in the area who they can consult, and youth are educated on what to expect in their recovery. Perhaps the most powerful part of our program, however, are the testimonies offered by concussed athletes on our team, such as former Queen’s Football player Jesse Topley. The stories our athletes give make the effects of concussion a reality, as we hope to foster supportive environments around concussions in the community. By outlining the difficulties that follow injury, we hope that athletes understand they have the power to prevent severe sequelae by playing it safe in their recovery. We hope that athletes and youth are able to identify the injury in themselves and take it seriously, and reverse the “warrior culture” that exists in sports that encourages young athletes to play through any injury.
Since the middle of January at program launch, CESAP has presented to over 1,100 students, athletes, parents and coaches in Kingston, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, and across the GTA. Our program hopes to continue to expand into the Limestone District School Board, with regular classes in grade 9 PHE and senior biology classes. In athletics, we are advocating for more education of coaches, referees and trainers in leagues in the Kingston area.
With help from our colleagues at the Centre for Neurosciences, and in partnership with students in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, we hope that CESAP can continue to grow across Canada. Our dream is to make CESAP, and programs like it, standard education for high school students and athletes. Through increased education, we believe that youth, parents and coaches can make safer decisions regarding head injury and reduce the burden of concussion and its chronic effects on society at large.
If you are interested in booking CESAP for an education session, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will accept any audience and are happy to tailor a presentation to your needs! Please follow us on Twitter @cesap100 to learn more about our sessions and concussions in the news.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “Online Concussion Training for Health Care Providers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., 4 May 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
Cournoyer, Janie, and Brady L. Tripp. “Concussion knowledge in high school football players.”Journal of athletic training 5 (2014): 654-658
Hudak, A., Warner, M., Marquez de la Plata, C., Moore, C., Harper, C., & Diaz-Arrastia, R. Brain morphometry changes and depressive symptoms after traumatic brain injury. Psychiatry Research, 191(3), 160–165 (2011).
Swartz, E. E., Broglio, S. P., Cook, S. B., Cantu, R. C., Ferrara, M. S., Guskiewicz, K. M., & Myers, J. L. (2015). Early Results of a Helmetless-Tackling Intervention to Decrease Head Impacts in Football Players. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(12), 1219–1222. http://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-51.1.06
Taylor, M. E., & Sanner, J. E. (2015). “The Relationship Between Concussion Knowledge and the High School Athlete’s Intention to Report Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms: A Systematic Review of the Literature.”The Journal of school nursing : the official publication of the National Association of School Nurses. PubMed. Web.