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|MEDICAL EDUCATION REFORM
Photo by Liza Green, HMS Media Services
Curriculum reform, above all, stresses better ways to teach students. But teaching faculty members to be better teachers is an essential, if less noticed, target, too.
“If one of the goals of education reform is to re-engage faculty and students, we need to pay attention to the skills of the faculty to do that,” said George Thibault, director of the Academy at Harvard Medical School. Founded in 2001 to deploy HMS’s top teachers as mentors and innovators, the Academy opened its Center for Teaching and Learning in March to power the faculty-development side of education reform. Led by Charles Hatem, the Harold Amos Academy professor at HMS and Mt. Auburn Hospital, the center also has recruited professional educators as associate directors.
The center will ask course directors of the new curriculum’s first year to “identify their needs for faculty development” and then help design programs addressing those needs, said Thibault. In the coming years, the center will do the same with faculty throughout the four years of the curriculum. The new center is in discussions to open offices at each of HMS’s major affiliated teaching hospitals. The plan is that future center mentors will have part-time appointments in the center, shouldering colleague guidance along with their own teaching and clinical duties. “The best teachers of teachers are the people actually at the front lines,” Thibault said.
Part-time support and other incentives for center faculty represent efforts to address the center’s biggest challenge: time. Mentors need time to mentor, and their colleagues need time to hear and incorporate their advice. That is one reason for mini-sites at the hospitals, so faculty development programs can be held at the site where the clinical teaching is actually taking place, rather than requiring clinical teachers to travel to the Medical School.
How do you make a better teacher? While specific programs still must be developed, some foci for the center are clear, beginning with training faculty to better manage the new curriculum’s revamped tutorials. “There needs to be some evolution in the tutorial,” said Thibault. Students in a second-year tutorial should be required to take a more active role in learning than those in a tutorial at the start of their first year, for example. That requires tutors to adjust the amount of direction they provide. “The tutors set those standards and expectations, and we need to be more explicit about how we do that as the student moves through,” Thibault explained. There’s an even more fundamental requirement. “In every year, we get new faculty who haven’t taught in a tutorial before, so there’s a need for fundamental instruction in how to run a tutorial, how to present a case, how to manage a group.”
An important new task for the center will be to convene course directors and teachers to compare notes on pedagogical techniques—what has worked and what hasn’t worked. Another important part of the plan for the center, said Thibault, is “to develop a rigorous program of peer review over the whole four years, in which faculty will observe other faculty teaching and giving feedback and advice, with the goal of making us all better teachers.”