Here are 10 suggestions for teachers in health professions education. These are not rules but rather a set of ideas that I think are powerful for enhancing students’ learning. There are others that are just as valuable but these are some that I like.
- Challenge students to do work at a higher level than they think they’re capable of. Students aren’t afraid of working hard; they just don’t want to be bored.
- Let go of power. Teaching is about developing independent thinkers who question authority. Let them learn by questioning yours.
- Teaching is about creating conditions that optimise for student learning. Everything that happens in the classroom should be informed by that singular idea.
- What students know should be subordinate to how they think. Assessment tasks should therefore focus on students’ thinking and not on what they know.
- Help students learn to negotiate uncertainty and develop a comfortable attitude towards ambiguity. They will need this in clinical practice.
- The next 50 years of physiotherapy practice will be vastly different to the last. Pay attention to the changes that are coming to our health systems and help students prepare for them.
- Feedback is about having a conversation with students where your objective is to help them to figure out how to do it better the next time. Design their learning tasks so that there is value in attending to your feedback.
- Learning happens in the mind of the student and only in the mind of the student, and they can’t be made to learn. But, you can create a space where they want to.
- Don’t confuse movement with progress. Giving students a lot of work is not the same as giving them an education.
- The Evidence will only get you so far. Creativity. Innovation. Relationship. Human connection. Empathy. Wonder and awe. Imagination. These are harder to cultivate but are more powerful for learning.
I’ve been cleaning up my office over the past few days and came across a handout that I probably received at a T&L workshop sometime during the past year, and thought I’d post a summary of it here. There is a link on the document to this online version, although the hard copy that I have has different content under the same headings. Developing learning activities that try to take into account the following principles is more likely to result in deeper learning. Note: I couldn’t help but think about how video games incorporate all of these principles, which says a lot about a) what the gaming and entertainment industries know about engagement, and b) how boring a lot of classroom activities must be for students.
- Prior knowledge can help or hinder learning. How we mis/understand information changes how we perceive new information. If our prior knowledge is incorrect or incomplete, it affects how we understand new things. Teachers must therefore ensure that students articulate prior knowledge, in order to correct or consolidate it.
- Motivation generates, directs, and sustains learning behaviour. Our interests, goals, expectations, beliefs and emotional responses directly influence how much time and effort we devote to learning.
- The way students organise knowledge determines how they use it. When representations of knowledge are accurately formed, we’re better able to store and retrieve new information. When knowledge is organised according to superficial features, or when the relationships are inaccurate, or when the representation is of disconnected and isolated facts, we are more likely to incorrectly organise new information.
- Meaningful engagement is necessary for deeper learning. Meaningful engagement leads to the formation of more connections between concepts. The more connections that exist between concepts, the more likely it is that we will be able to retrieve and use those concepts as tools, instead of having them exist as isolated facts. Examples of meaningful engagement include asking (and also answering) questions, making analogies, and using knowledge to solve problems, lead to longer lasting and stronger representations of knowledge.
- Mastery requires developing component skills and knowledge, synthesising, and applying them appropriately. Performance of complex tasks (e.g. writing) is composed of many interrelated but discrete component skills. In order to gain mastery of the complex task, we must first practice and gain proficiency in the component skills, and then organise and itnegrate them into a coherent whole. These new skills must also be practiced in different contexts, which enables us to transfer the skills from one place to another.
- Goal-directed practice and targeted feedback are critical to learning. Learning is enhanced when we work towards a specific level of performance and regularly evaluate our progress against a clearly defined goal. Feedback should explicitly relate performance to the goal criteria, should be timely, frequent and constructive, and there must be opportunities to use the feedback in future activities.
- Students must learn to monitor, evaluate and adjust their approaches to learning to become self-directed learners. We must learn to be conscious of our own thinking process (metacognition). We should help students monitor, evaluate and reflect on their own performance, and provide feedback on their progress. Teachers must also model their own thinking and reasoning strategies for their students.
- Because students develop holistically, their learning is affected by the social, emotional and intellectual climate of the classroom. We are all intellectual, social and emotional beings and any learning activity needs to take all of these dimensions into account. The social and emotional aspects of the environment will influence the learning process. For example, in trusted settings, we may be more likely to take creative risks, whereas if we fear ridicule we are more likely to disengage from the process completely.
Note: I wrote a similar post earlier in the year, on the theoretical underpinnings of problem-based learning, which has some of the same ideas, as well as an even earlier post on the principles of authentic learning.
Recently I came across a collection of quotes on the website of Scott McLeod, an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University. It mostly consists of quotes by David Warlick but also has a few from other blogs.
Here are a few that I enjoyed:
- “I’m getting tired of hearing people continue to ask for the evidence that technology helps students learn. It doesn’t matter. We know that good teachers help students learn. We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.”
- “One of our problems has been that we have tried to shape the technology around outdated notions of what schooling is about, rather than reshaping our notions to reflect new world conditions… In a rapidly changing world, it becomes much less valuable to be able to memorize the answer, and much more valuable to be able to find and even invent the answers… We can’t keep up with making the technology the curriculum. All we can do is prepare our students to teach themselves. It’s the only way to keep up.”
- “The kids who start school today will be retiring in the year 2065, and yet we know as little about what the world will look like then as we do five years from now. We can give them all the content we want, but in this age, in won’t make much difference if we don’t teach them how to learn first. And they do that not by spitting back at us what they “know.” They do it by being creative, by trying and failing, by succeeding and reflecting.” (http://weblogg-ed.com/2006/learning-to-learn-2/)
I think it’s great that people are challenging the traditional stereotypes of students, classrooms and the learning process and I agree that rote memorisation and the regurgitation of facts does nothing to prepare our students for the challenges of reasoning in a clinical environment.
Link to the original PDF: