Photo Credit: Norm Shafer (original source)
[I]t coalesced into an unusual, functionally innovate design, one built around a new pedagogy.Shades of the Collaboratory at Rutgers. You see, UVA figured something out:
Most universities continue to follow a blueprint introduced in 1910, which called for two years of in-depth study of the basic sciences followed by two years of clinical experience. A cookie-cutter approach, it means that students spend two years sitting through long lectures and regurgitating facts on tests, followed by the shock treatment in their third year of suddenly dealing with patients in a hospital ward.Huh. Who knew? Oh yeah.
“It’s become pretty clear in the last couple of decades that this is probably not the best way to learn something as complex as medicine,” says Randolph Canterbury, the medical school’s senior associate dean for education. “The idea that physicians ought to learn the facts of all these various disciplines—anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and so forth—to the depth that we once thought they should doesn’t make much sense.”
About half of all medical knowledge becomes obsolete every five years. Every 15 years, the world’s body of scientific literature doubles. The pace of change has only accelerated. “The half-life of what I learned in medical school was much longer than what it is today,” adds Canterbury, a professor of psychiatric medicine and internal medicine.
So what happens in that Learning Studio?
. . . In teams of eight, the students debate a patient case: Walt Z., a 55-year-old chemist, comes into your clinic complaining of intermittent chest pain. As his doctor, you’ve arranged for an exercise stress test. But Walt Z. is an informed consumer of health care, and he has lots of questions about the test’s accuracy in diagnosing blockage in coronary arteries. Five large media screens hanging throughout the room delineate his medical details and a series of multiple choice questions.Interesting. What about accountability?
Gone is the traditional 50-minute lecture. (Also gone is paper, for the most part.) The students have completed the assigned reading beforehand and, because they’ve absorbed the facts on their own, class time serves another purpose. Self-assessment tests at the start of class measure how well they understand the material. Then it’s time to do a test case, to reinforce their critical thinking and push their knowledge and skills to another level.
. . . In this “flattened classroom,” as it’s been described, the traditional top-down educational approach is reconfigured and the responsibility for learning shifts to the student.
Problem solving by teams mirrors the reality of health care today. “The traditional approach has been one patient, one doctor,” says Waggoner-Fountain. “Now, it’s one patient, one doctor and a team, in part because medicine has gotten more sophisticated and patient expectations are different.”I could go on, but it would be better if you just go read the article. Okay, just one more quote:
Studies also show that individual grades improve when working within a team. The first-year students have embraced it. Not isolated in auditorium seats bolted to the floor, they can easily move and mingle because everything is in the round.
“Working in a team reinforces what you learn in class,” says Chelsea Becker (Med ’14). “We all have different backgrounds and everyone knows something different.” Science majors don’t hold dominion; the class comprises more than 60 different majors, from astrochemistry to art.
“It allows us to teach each other,” adds Tom Jenkins (Med ’14), who estimates he’s collaborated with just about every person in the class at this point. “I think that helps with retention.”
Every team experience was singular. “We have the sense that education should be standardized and everyone should have the same experience, but that’s not really the case for us,” says Littlewood. “The new Carnegie report talks about having standardized outcomes for individualized experiences, and I think there’s no better example than over here.”So, let's sum up. Teaching like it's 1910 doesn't make much sense (teacher-centered, lecture-oriented, fact-recall, paper-based, standardized instruction.) Ahh, so glad all the current education reform in K-12 matches up with this vision. They have to be college-ready, ya know.