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Teach so they can learn .....

Posted Sep 14 2008 1:49am
As we go through residency and then become attendings, we like look up to those educators that we respect and would like to emulate and discard those things that we felt were unimportant or "bad" characteristics that we would not like to emulate. If we choose to be come an educator of sorts, our teaching style will mimic many of those characteristics for educators that helped you. You will infuse your own personality into this teaching style and create your own flare. But, no one actually explains to you what makes a good educator. What characteristics made these influential people in your education? What are the techniques that they used to achieve their ultimate goal of educating the learner? I look back at my own education as an example of how to educate others. But not every technique that was effective at teaching me will be effective at teaching everyone.

I have been to a number of conferences and been inspired by most of them. At every meeting, there is something that gets my mind stimulated. I routinely come home with a number of ideas for projects. The orthopaedic educators course was a wonderful forum of people who come for the similar purpose of learning to better educate. As the days went on, there were dedicated lectures to help us understand theories of education. What became evident early in the course was as much as we were learning from the instructors, we learned from each other. The course consisted of both new and old practitioners, as well as, program directors, new attendings and residents. There were people from very academic programs and very community based programs. We were in lecture from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner with one another. I thought this would be over powering and rather boring. My experience was just the opposite.

During the week, I had discussions with many of the attendings about our concerns and problems. What I realize was that no matter where you lived or where you taught, we all had many of the same questions. We all have problem residents; we all don't quite understand some of the ACGME guidelines; and we all don't quite understand how to systematically educate residents. Who in college, medical school, or residency, teaches you adult education theory? You get the term of "professor" and all of the sudden you know how to teach. Now, I understand that this has been done for years and has produced thousands of good to excellent practitioners, but I think that we are in a time where we must become more efficient at educating.

With the restrictions in hours, decreases in both surgical and clinic time, and increases in both the numbers of diseases we treat and procedures we perform, we need to be more efficient with the time we are given. There needs to be reason to our madness. My experience is that like there are some educators that have the knack of efficiently conveying information that is retained by the learner. These people generally keep your attention by their presentation techniques or their enthusiasm about the subject matter. But, more commonly a lecture is given and the educator is teaching but nothing is being learned.

I think that education theory should be a requirement for anyone who is educating medical students, or residents. For some reason, physicians are given the opportunity to educate without any guidance to how to educate. You may be given a handbook of guidelines and techniques, but many physicians are placed in the educator role without any idea of how to teach in a way that people with learn. In my experience, we treat medical education like parenting. We teach by trial and error. We are given guidance from those elders (parents) and occasionally follow the advise from these elders (our mother in-law). This does not have to be so hap hazard. In this day and age where we are require to be more efficient, our approach to educating the learning must change. We must have an organized approach to educating the learner. We must communicate our goals for the learner to give them an understanding of what our intentions are. I am particularly bad at letting folks know what my intension or expectations are. You (I) assume that they have ESP and can read your (my) mind. I have made a secret pledge to my self to improve on this. I hope that all of you that are educating will join me in this pledge as well.

“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
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