Stacey Pylman, who has a background in adult education and professional development, is supporting an effort to integrate active learning in the Shared Discovery Curriculum (SDC). Says Pylman, “A lot of research shows the active learning approach results in improved academic achievement, engagement, and a more favorable attitude toward learning, as opposed to didactic lecture.”

Faculty viewing website

Recently, Dr. Randi Stanulis and Stacey Pylman of OMERAD were asked to work with Rotational Small Group (RSG) facilitators and leads to integrate active learning strategies into their teaching. RSG faculty facilitate small group reflection among students who share a clinical rotation while in the Middle Clinical Experience (MCE). After Pylman and Stanulis met with Grand Rapids and East Lansing Rotational Small Group faculty, the demand for learning a variety of active learning strategies increased. Faculty also requested demonstrations, instructions and advice on how to implement these strategies in various forums within the SDC.

As a result, Pylman constructed an extensive list of active learning strategies such as turn-and-talk and memory matrix, with accompanying advice on how to integrate these strategies into teaching. This active learning resource can be found on the OMERAD website.

Says Pylman, “There are many different methods to use for active learning; many are described in this web resource created for medical educators. Cooperative strategies like turn-and-talk and group discussion help learners think out loud about their understanding, identify misconceptions or gaps in knowledge, and gives them an opportunity to teach the information to another person – a strategy known to help knowledge retention and deeper understanding.”

Dr. Stanulis reinforces the importance of helping clinicians build active learning into their teaching: In order to encourage all students to talk critically about their thinking, active learning strategies are necessary to incorporate within teaching. Medical education involves more than sharing experiences. Learning implies active engagement with ideas, which helps students develop strong listening and reasoning skills.”

The OMERAD unit works to increase the quality of teaching and learning in the medical school. Many OMERAD initiatives focus on teaching, but since teaching and learning are interconnected, only by working with medical students can OMERAD faculty understand ways to foster more effective teaching practices. New medical students are adjusting to a dramatic change in learning, with a focus on independent learning in the Shared Discovery Curriculum’s Weekend Learning Modules. Because the new curriculum requires students to come to small group sessions ready to apply and connect complex material, OMERAD and the division of Academic Achievement collaborated to study how students approach their week’s learning. In order to become effective physicians, the developers of the new curriculum have organized the week’s learning to rely on connecting, applying and being able to understand information rather than memorizing. This shift in student learning means that both students and faculty need support. OMERAD Director, Dr. Randi Stanulis recruited Mrs. Amy Ward, an Instructor in the Department of Teacher Education at MSU to work directly with students to diagnose and address their learning needs.

Students talking with facultyStanulis recalls, “It all started with exploring the question of what successful medical students [are] doing to prepare for each week in the new curriculum, and what are ways we can support students to learn effective habits?’” Ward then interviewed ten students and discovered trends in habits, and behavior in students who view themselves as successful, including (1) use of visual strategies to connect material, (2) creating a note-taking system that organizes material throughout the weeks, and (3) using the objectives to strategize how to tackle the readings. From there, Ward began working 1-1 with students to help them develop strategies for integration and application of material. Activating background knowledge is one strategy they are teaching. Says Ward, “The best way to learn is when students attach new information to what they already know. We encourage students to use reading strategies in this way instead of copying notes.”

In order to teach these skills to students, Ward provides one-on-one coaching. Ward first works with students on before reading strategies which consist of activating background knowing and articulating a clear purpose for reading by clearly using objectives in order to target a student’s focus. Second, Ward works with students to help them become aware of during reading strategies, which consist of engaging actively by asking questions, creating visual aids such as concept maps or diagrams, and summarizing. Finally, students use post-reading strategies, organizing notes so that the student can refer back when the curriculum, by design, will cycle back to the topic. While her work with students is ongoing, students are already starting to feel the results of the work. In a recent session, one student commented that he feels he is finally able to contribute meaningfully to the discussions occurring in small group. Another mentioned that she had moved from taking formative assessments only as open note quizzes, to doing them closed-note with similarly good results. In both cases, these changes occurred because the students are preparing themselves not to simply learn facts in isolation, but to integrate old and new knowledge in a way that allows them to build a schema of complex medical knowledge.

Faculty and student discussionStanulis and Ward are involved in two research projects in order to inform faculty who teach in a discovery curriculum about strategies for student success. First, they are developing case studies of the four students who are working to implement these new strategies as they read, noting their change in participation, performance and confidence in weekly activities. Secondly, Ward and Stanulis are continuing to look at habits and behaviors facing medical students and other notable trends that can add to support of students and faculty by interviewing 30 medical students. Says Ward, “Teaching and learning are not separate, they have to be connected. As this research goes on, we can see the types of things that medical students can do to be successful and we can support faculty in encouraging these students to use these habits with their own instruction styles or classroom activities.”

“When we teach, we always need to consider that learning happens together in a context. In this context, there are teachers and students interacting together with content. Students and faculty needing explicit strategy instruction for reading and applying complex material. This is where OMERAD comes in,” says Dr. Stanulis. “Working one-on-one with students and learning what they need will help us coach faculty to better help accelerate student learning.”

In this model, student learning is enriched alongside faculty development. Whether you are a future physician or preparing physicians, the true CHM experience is not complete without the support of OMERAD.

Teacher and students interacting A simultaneously patient-centered and student-centered approach to medical education may sound impossible but it is exactly what Professor and Director of the Shared Discovery Curriculum (SDC) Academy in the College of Human Medicine, Dr. Brian Mavis, is working toward to achieve with members of the SDC Academy. “In the SDC Academy, we work to help educators develop better teaching and coaching skills to make better teachers, better students, and therefore, better doctors,” says Mavis. Dr. Mavis works with faculty in the College of Human Medicine to implement a new curriculum that exposes medical students to clinical settings early and trains them for action early on. “The [SDC] Academy represents a commitment by the College to teaching and [the new curriculum] makes educator development a formal expectation.”

Mavis is also collaborating with Spectrum Health to develop teaching skills for the physicians in hospitals and clinics. Spectrum Health recently conducted a pilot program involving skills training and guided practices as well as assessment of teaching skills. Dr. Mavis has been on the planning committee and OMERAD’s Dr. Monica van de Ridder led two of the Spectrum Health pilot sessions. “We [at OMERAD] are not just a classroom-based resource, we are also working in the healthcare delivery setting.”

As a faculty member at the Office of Medical Education Research and Development (OMERAD), Mavis bridges OMERAD and the College of Human Medicine-SDC faculty by providing information, resources, services, and networking opportunities. Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Human Development Dr. Zakia Alavi affirms, “As an educator for OMERAD and the Learning Society for SDC at the College of Human Medicine, I’ve seen Dr. Mavis take physicians of all different specialties and bring them together as educators for the SDC curriculum.”

Not only does OMERAD work to create these resources for faculty development and student learning, but OMERAD can also serve as a professional social network for those with common research interests. For faculty looking to connect with colleagues who have similar research questions or goals, or for faculty seeking those with similar goals to develop as educators, look no further than Dr. Brian Mavis. Says Mavis, “[In OMERAD, I see myself as] a broker or matchmaker for resources and faculty with similar research or development goals who want to collaborate.”

Faculty discussing paper OMERAD faculty and staff also create resources and provide a hotline for questions related to teaching, scholarship and evaluation. Whether faculty have a question about instrument design, have an idea for preparing scholarship about the SDC, want to integrate technology into their teaching, or have an idea for a particular workshop, OMERAD is here to help. Says Mavis: “We find the best in both worlds of service and research to support the College of Human Medicine.”

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