What is your understanding of good teaching? Is it transmission of knowledge to learners, or helping them to acquire factual information? If you think that’s what it is, I would urge you to reconsider. Teaching (at medical school level and beyond) should be understood as the facilitation of learning, which may have little to do with increasing factual knowledge. The key is helping students to ask deep questions and make conceptual connections for themselves. They have, after all, been acquiring facts all their lives, and the majority if them wouldn’t be where they are now if they hadn’t demonstrated their ability to successfully do this. What they need help with, (and what we all need to be effective lifelong learners), is thinking critically, integrating and applying their knowledge and problem-solving to ensure their patients will receive the best possible care.
A paper in Medical Teacher1 describes a successful faculty development programme where medical faculty where encouraged to substantially reflect on what it means to teach over the course of a year, and were supported in their development of a more complex understanding of teaching that was crucial to their professional development. PRIME aims to help health-care professionals to teach in ways that engage students in active learning, encourages them to reflect on their practice, and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Doing this sometimes involves raising more questions than answers, which may initially confuse participants who are used to didactic, fact laden lectures. But in an age where information is available at the press of a button on any internet-linked computer, this approach is vitally important in developing doctors who are competent and capable practitioners.
In PRIME we look to the example of Jesus who is widely regarded as one of the best teachers in history. We find that He demonstrated in His teaching the very characteristics that the modern educational theory described briefly above is now propagating in medical schools in the developed world. He asked questions, challenged assumptions, gave learners case-based scenarios to consider, gave feedback to His learners, and encouraged them to link their prior understanding with the new perspectives and attitudes that He was teaching.
Do you want to be a teacher who enables your students to learn, to grow, to be committed to lifelong professional development so they can be capable providers of good care to their patients? Then make sure you are not just filling them with facts, but challenging them to question, to problem-solve and to integrate and discover for themselves. The teaching methods and values of Jesus, applied to medicine, have the power to transform patient care around the world. This is PRIME’s mission.
1. Calkins et al. Changing conceptions of teaching in medical faculty. Medical Teacher, 2012, Vol. 34, No. 11 : Pages 902-906
PRIME Senior Tutor