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Article of the Month

Article of the Month is a resource from the Office of Educational Improvement (OEI) within the Department of Academic Affairs. Each month we identify an article that should be of interest to our teaching faculty.

May 2021: Tips for creating an in-depth elective to foster the next generation of medical teachers

May’s article discusses fostering development of the next generation of clinical educators. Despite many students expressing an interest in teaching, many curricula do not include formal training in this area. The article suggests tips for creating an in-depth elective to foster the next generation of medical teachers.

Highlights include:

  • Start early. Offer opportunities to learn about medical education and develop teaching skills early in the training program.
  • Allow learners to explore their beliefs about teaching. Asking questions such as, “How do we learn?” “What is knowledge?” and other theoretical queries allows the students to begin learning about theoretical underpinnings of education in relation to their own skills and values.
  • Role model. Provide a positive learning environment, demonstrate an understanding of the curriculum, and support the learning needs of individuals. Explain why you are doing these things to develop conscious awareness in the students.
  • Show the bigger picture. Education is a complex process, often involving teams of professionals in interconnected structures to organize and deliver. Help students see the complexity of curricular development and implementation from various perspectives.
  • Introduce the basics of educational design, principles, and theories. Familiarize students with constructive alignment of learning objectives, educational activities, and assessment. Discuss and reflect on important learning theories to shape future teaching behaviors.
  • Integrate designing for learning. Have students design learning experiences for one another based on educational theories and principles.
  • Provide near-peer teaching experiences. Allow students to apply their new knowledge through practice in educating near-peer students, or those who are earlier in the training program.
  • Prepare students for technology-enhanced learning. Teach students how to educate in a digital environment, engaging learners in synchronous and asynchronous online learning activities. Virtual reality, educational gaming, and open access resources should be explored.
  • Focus on reflection. Move students from experiencing to understanding using reflection. Include opportunities for observation and feedback. Ask student to link their reflections to class activities and educational theories and principles.
  • Introduce medical education research. Expose students to the world of medical education research, which is grounded in social sciences rather than biomedical sciences. Have students write an educational research proposal or literature review. Offer journal clubs, training in qualitative and quantitative research, and literature search strategies.
  • Involve students in teaching activities. Following completion of this in-depth training, use students as teaching assistants in your program, fostering involvement in near-peer teaching and further developing their skills as educators.

den Bakker, C.R., Hendriks, R.A., Houtlosser, M., Dekker, F.W., and Norbart, A.F. (2021) Twelve tips for fostering the next generation of medical teachers. Medical Teacher, Ahead-of-Print, 1-5.

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April 2021: The reality of highly structured curriculum in health sciences education poses a challenge for incorporating independent learning activities

April’s article discusses designing assignments that foster independence in learning. The reality of highly structured curriculum in health sciences education poses a challenge for incorporating independent learning activities. The authors suggest tips for successful integration of activities that foster skill development for self-directed and lifelong learning.

Highlights include:

  • Become familiar with the experiential and procedural knowledge of your learners. Knowing previous curricular and life experiences will allow you to design learning experiences that gradually build on existing knowledge and skills.
  • Decide on appropriate topics to use in fostering independent learning. Topics with which learners have some prior knowledge or experience lend themselves more readily to independent learning activities.
  • Develop learning objectives that promote independent learning. Include objectives that involve the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for self-directed and lifelong learning.
  • Select or create resources that align with your learning objectives. Include authentic learning tasks that reflect the knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes learners need to demonstrate in professional practice.
  • Provide opportunities for learners to develop skills and strategies for independent learning. Expose learners to different written, visual, and kinesthetic forms of learning to foster learning skill development.
  • Be cognizant of the time learning tasks take for learners based on their level of knowledge and experience. New concepts and unfamiliar formats will take longer for the learners to navigate than those with which they have previous experience.
  • Provide guidance appropriate to learners’ knowledge and experience. Newer learners may require more guidance than those with more experience.
  • Provide context for what is to be learned. Learners benefit from understanding the “why” of what they are to learn in addition to the “what.”
  • Format content to facilitate learning. Make written materials more explicit about the relevance and context of the information so they don’t require additional guidance or explanation.
  • Use active learning techniques. Start with lower order thinking skills earlier in the program and progress to higher order skills as learners develop. For a brief definition of Bloom’s Taxonomy, see the December 2019 Knowledge Now Brief in the OEI Teaching Toolbox.
  • Incorporate opportunities for self-assessment. For independent learning activities, self-assessment allows the learner to know whether they have met the learning objectives in a way that fosters continual growth.
  • Be consistent. Providing consistency in your approach to independent learning tasks allows learners to focus on their learning rather than the directions for a given activity. Structure, format, and intent of independent learning activities should maintain consistency across a course of instruction that ensures instructors and learners share an understanding of expectations.

Christen Rachul, Benjamin Collins, Mariam Ahmed & George Cai (2021) Twelve tips for designing assignments that foster independence in learning, Medical Teacher, 43:1, 75-79, DOI: 10.1080/0142159X.2020.1752914

March 2021: Cultural humility strives to understand historical context in which cultures exist and address issues related to implicit bias

March’s article discusses integrating cultural humility into medical education curriculum. Cultural humility strives to understand the historical context in which cultures exist and address issues related to implicit bias.

Highlights include:

  • Cultural humility-based care fosters a mutually respectful patient-provider relationship and helps providers understand social determinants of health (SDOH).
  • Student assessment is a challenge in humility-based curricula, as the skills don’t lend themselves to traditional assessment methods.
  • Humility-based curricula emphasize self-reflection and curiosity over mastery and problem-solving.
  • Cultural humility requires a balance between acknowledging one’s own knowledge and skill proficiency with the recognition that one will never be an expert on any individual patient’s personal and cultural experiences.
  • A curiosity approach shifts the power dynamic, turning the provider into a student of the patient.
  • Educators must pay attention to creating a safe learning environment in which divergent views are accepted and encouraged.
  • Initiating sensitive discussions in an online environment may allow learners to gain comfort in exploring the topic; discussions can then be continued in the classroom with skillful instructors to facilitate.
  • Clinical simulations and role playing may offer ways to incorporate cultural humility training.
  • Incorporating medical humanities courses offers a way to increase student understanding of cultural humility and develop their empathy.
  • Student rotations with community health workers and social workers may help students gain a better understanding of SDOH.
  • Mandatory lectures and cultural humility discussions may invoke negative feelings about the curriculum, while optional programs may fail to reach future providers who need training the most. A hybrid approach may offer the best approach.
  • Culturally-based OSCEs may offer a way to assess humility-based principles and identify gaps in the curriculum.

Solchanyk, D., et al. "Integrating cultural humility into the medical education curriculum: Strategies for educators." Teaching and Learning in Medicine (2021) 1-7.

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February 2021: Medical education’s failure to evolve to address issues of race, racism, and heath care

February’s article discusses medical education’s failure to evolve to address issues of race, racism, and heath care. Implicit bias amongst physicians perpetuates false beliefs regarding differences between races. These biases are found in medical students and may be reinforced by medical school curriculum. This month’s article reports the audit of one institution’s preclinical medical school curriculum and its findings regarding propagation of bias.

Highlights include:

  • Race is not a meaningful scientific construct in the absence of context. It is a social category.
  • Misrepresentation of race occurred in five domains: semantics, prevalence without context, race-based diagnostic bias, pathologizing race, and race-based clinical guidelines.
  • Recommendations include standardizing the language used to describe race/ethnicity, appropriately contextualizing racial/ethnic differences in disease burden, and generating and imparting evidence-based medical knowledge when it comes to race.
  • Medical educators should impart an adequate and accurate understanding of the complexity between factors affecting disease prevalence, diagnosis, and treatment.
Amutah, C., et al. "Misrepresenting race – The role of medical schools in propagating physician bias." New England Journal of Medicine (2021, January 6): 1-7.

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January 2021: Resuscitating the Socratic Method: Student and Faculty Perspectives on Posing Probing Questions During Clinical Teaching

January’s article discusses the Socratic method and its role in healthcare education. When conducted properly, Socratic questioning should engage critical thinking skills and foster self-directed learning. When done poorly, it may be viewed as a form of “pimping,” or ill-intentioned questioning to embarrass or degrade the learner.

Highlights include:

  • Faculty may be hesitant to engage learners with questioning for fear of it being perceived with ill-intent.
  • Faculty and students report that questioning is a beneficial tool for learning.
  • Faculty undervalued students’ desire to be asked probing questions that foster their learning.
  • Failure to ask probing questions may make it difficult to assess a learner’s knowledge base.
  • Students perceive that questions are used for assessment more often than they are for learning.

Abou-Hanna, Jacob, et al. "Resuscitating the Socratic Method: Student and Faculty Perspectives on Posing Probing Questions During Clinical Teaching." Academic Medicine 96.1 (2021): 113-117. Journals@Ovid Full Text. Web. 05 January. 2021.

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December 2020: Twelve tips for interfacing with the new generation of medical students: iGen

December’s article discusses working with medical trainees from Generation Z, or iGen. This generation was raised with technology present throughout all aspects of their lives.  Through recognizing the unique characteristics of this generation, educators can foster positive learning environments and lifelong learning skills.

Highlights include:

  • Educators need to foster life development skills in iGen students.
  • iGen students need guidance in development of time management skills.
  • This generation needs help in developing their professional communication skills.
  • Be open to exploring new learning spaces and resources, such as digital platforms, with this generation of learners.
  • iGen students need regular and timely feedback.
Lerchenfeldt, S., Attardi, S.M., Pratt, R.L., Sawarynski, K.E., and Taylor, T.A.H. (2020) Twelve tips for interfacing with the new generation of medical students: iGen. Medical Teacher, 1-6, DOI:10.1080/0142159X.2020.1845305

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November 2020: The Educators' Experience: Learning Environments that Support the Master Adaptive Learner

November’s article discusses the importance of learning environment in developing master adaptive learners. Master adaptive learners utilize self-regulated theory and quality improvement techniques to continually engage in cycles of learning, adapting, and testing new knowledge. The authors assert that creating master adaptive learners requires careful attention to the learning environment. 

Highlights include:

  • The learning environment should support learning experiences that encourage active learning.
  • Attention to the learning environment should include classrooms and diverse clinical experiences. 
  • Adaptive educators adapt to the needs of their students while providing consistency to develop trust between themselves and their learners.
  • Approaches to teaching may often look like coaching, with cycles of direct observation and feedback.
  • Institutional support is required in the form of a productive culture and adequate resources, such as time, space, and access to information. 
Lisa Auerbach , Sally A. Santen , William B. Cutrer , Michelle Daniel, Amy L. Wilson-Delfosse & Nicole K. Roberts (2020) The educators’ experience: Learning
environments that support the master adaptive learner, Medical Teacher, 42:11, 1270-1274, DOI:10.1080/0142159X.2020.1801998

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October 2020:The Transition from Medical School to Residency

October’s article discusses the transition from medical school to residency. Professional identity formation is reported as the core to a successful transition. Residents report not feeling as if their training prepared them for the scope and volume of tasks required to provide proper clinical care to patients. 

Highlights include:

  • Residency directors worry that graduating medical students are not adequately prepared for their responsibilities in caring for patients.
  • Educational interventions have included formal programming at the end of medical school and beginning of residency to help ease the transition, including enhanced handoffs between programs. 
  • While capstone programs for medical school focus on clinical skills and confidence, transitioning to residency may require focus on skills such as time management, communication, and identifying personal limits. 
  • Residents report “feeling more like a doctor” comes from immersion in the clinical experience and their new roles and responsibilities. 
  • Work such as administrative tasks and developing clinical efficiency are not part of the medical school experience.
  • Residents report struggling to develop skills to balance their professional and personal lives. 
Chang, Lucy, MD, MSc, Eliasz, Kinga, PhD, MSc, Cacciatore, Danielle, Winkel, Abigail, et al. (2020). The Transition From Medical Student to Resident: A Qualitative Study of New Residents' Perspectives. Academic Medicine, 95, 1421-1427.

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September 2020: The Lecture-Free Curriculum

September’s article discusses the concept of a lecture-free curriculum. The authors argue that a lecture-free approach takes advantage of advances in the science of learning along with our understanding of how to learn science and clinical reasoning. Lecture-free curricula take advantage of active, engaged learning techniques, availability of learning technologies, and best-practice instructional design. 

Highlights include:

  • Lecture is a deep traditional approach designed for information that is not intended for deep learning. 
  • There are many approaches to active learning that can replace traditional lecture. 
  • Lecture-free experiences in the pre-clinical years can create meaningful experiences that address measurable competencies and non-cognitive domains viewed as critical to development for future clinical practice. 
  • Learning of biomedical science and clinical reasoning should involve integrative clinical problem-solving, collaborative activities, frequent feedback, and sufficient out of class time for reading and metacognitive activities. 
  • Classroom time is better used for application activities of content learned outside of the classroom. 
  • “Lectures deprive students of the challenges needed to learn how to learn.” 

Dean Parmelee, Brenda Roman, Irina Overman & Maryam Alizadeh (2020) The lecture-free curriculum: Setting the stage for life-long learning: AMEE Guide No. 135, Medical Teacher, 42:9, 962-969, DOI: 10.1080/0142159X.2020.1789083 

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August 2020: Social Networks in Faculty Development

August’s article discusses the role of social networks in faculty development. Recent research suggests that faculty development may be more effective when viewed as a social enterprise rooted within the greater practice community.  

Highlights include:

  • Social networks influence faculty development in four dimensions: enabling knowledge acquisition, shaping identity formation, expressing vulnerability, and scaffolding learning. 
  • Peer influence may determine whether faculty attend development sessions, how they learn within the sessions, and what they apply to practice.
  • Discussing faculty development sessions with colleagues helped broaden perspectives and solidify learning. 
  • Associating with other faculty who have a teaching role may help develop the educator’s professional identity as a teacher. 
  • Peers seen as credible and reliable may make individuals feel more comfortable receiving feedback and sharing sensitive or uncomfortable information.

Buckley, Heather MD, MHPE; Nimmon, Laura PhD. Learning in Faculty Development, Academic Medicine: August 4, 2020 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003627

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May 2020: Managing the tension: From innovation to application in health professions education

May’s article explores the tensions that exist when working to implement innovations to health professions education. The article focuses on five educational domains that play a role: curriculum, instruction, assessment, accreditation, and faculty development.

Highlights include:

  • Curricular tensions can arise from failure to involve the parties involved, lack of a supportive environment, and misunderstandings regarding the innovation itself.
  • Every curriculum is unique to its environment. What works for one program may not be appropriate for another.
  • Using conceptual frameworks to guide instruction helps educators bridge what is known to work in one situation to another, new situation.
  • Educators often fail to capitalize on what is known about effective instruction, continuing to employ more comfortable but less effective strategies.
  • Use of educational technologies and strategies because they are novel, rather than to solve an existing problem, may inflate costs without improving outcomes.

Tekian, A., Harden, R.M., Cook, D. A., Steinert, Y., Hunt, D., and Norcini, J. (2020). Managing the tension: From innovation to application in health professions education. Medical Teacher, 42(3), 333-339.

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April 2020: The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning

April’s article discusses the differences between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Making this distinction separates decisions made in response to a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, from instructional design related to teaching and learning in an online environment. 

Highlights include:

Rapid transition to teaching and learning online may lack the rigorous planning and support normally afforded to delivering online content. 

  • Online learning faces a stigma of being lower quality than face-to-face instruction, despite research indicating this is not the case. 
  • Effective online learning requires thoughtful instructional design informed by a systematic model for design and development.
  • Careful planning for online learning focuses not only on content delivery but mindful attention to how interactions will foster the learning environment, recognizing learning as both a social and cognitive process.  

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., and Bond, A. (2020, March 27). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Educause Review, Retrieved April 9, 2020


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March 2020: Defining Learning Communities in Undergraduate Medical Education: A National Study

March’s article discusses the incorporation of learning communities into undergraduate medical education. Learning communities provide a longitudinal opportunity for students and faculty to work on issues such as academic goals, socialization into the medical school environment, and professionalism. 

Highlights include:

  • Longitudinal relationships between students and faculty are a mainstay of learning communities. 
  • Learning community objectives often include advising or mentoring, professional development, coursework, social connection, and wellness.
  • Students participating in learning communities have reported greater satisfaction with the learning environment than their non-learning community peers. 
  • Learning communities have been shown to promote greater academic and social success in higher education. 
Shichet, R., Fleming, A., Wagner, J., Colbert-Getz, J., Bhutiani, M., Moynahan, K., and Keeley, M. (2019). Defining learning communities in undergraduate medical education: A national study. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 6, 1-9.

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February 2020: Beyond ‘driving’: The relationship between assessment, performance, and learning

February’s article challenges the assumption that assessment drives the learning process. The author asserts that many practices reward performance over learning and jeopardize our trainees’ attitudes toward long-term, meaningful learning. The author then offers suggestions for how we can mitigate this affect and enable assessments that encourage learning. 

Highlights include:

  • Assessment practices have only a tenuous relationship with the process of learning. However, we must be cautious to think that assessment never drives learning. 
  • Learning generates a stable change in knowledge or behavior resulting from practice or other forms of experience. 
  • Purposeful seeking of reward over learning is an undesired consequence of assessment. 
  • Infrequent, high-stakes assessments reward performance through ‘cramming’ over long-term recall.
  • Assessing student participation as a proxy for demonstration of learning rewards performance over true learning. 
Scott, I.M. (2020). Beyond ‘driving’: The relationship between assessment, performance, and learning. Medical Education, 54(1), 54-59.

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January 2020: The stress paradox: How stress can be good for learning

January’s article explores the subject of stress and its influence on the learning process. Rejecting the myth that stress is always bad for the learning environment, the authors assert that positive stress is a necessary part of the learning process. 

Highlights include:

  • The term “stress” is typically equated with “distress,” the negative type of stress. Doing so ignores the positive role of “eustress.”
  • “Stressors” in learning are defined as a learning expectation or challenge experienced by the learner.
  • Stressors prompt learning to take place.
  • Certain “distress,” such as bullying or humiliating learners, is harmful and has no place in the learning process.
  • Stress has been found to improve mental function and boost memory capabilities.
  • Stressors and stress are important for learning and should be used carefully and deliberately.

Rudland, J.R., Golding, C., and Wilkinson, T.J. (2020). The stress paradox: How stress can be good for learning. Medical Education, 54(1), 40-45.

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December 2019: "Twelve Tips for Clinicians Dealing with Uncertainty When Assessing Learners"

December’s article addresses the issue of uncertainty when assessing learners. Part of Medical Teacher’s “Twelve Tips” series, the authors draw parallels between handling uncertainty in the clinical environment and doing so in an educational environment. 

Highlights include:

  • Adopting a learner-centered approach to assessment is much like practicing patient-centered care. Learners can be responsible for their learning, manage their learning experience, and demonstrate knowledge construction with the instructor assuming a facilitator role. 
  • Clear communication and shared decision-making engage learners in hearing the feedback they receive. 
  • Ongoing assessment provides a full picture of learners’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, allowing the instructor to adjust their facilitation in support of the learner’s well-being and success. 
  • Good record keeping is essential when assessing learners. Just like the medical record, educational records should be recorded in a continuous and timely manner. 
Scott, I., Gingerich, A., and Eva, K.W. (2019). Twelve tips for clinicians dealing with uncertainty when assessing learners. Medical Teacher, 41(8), 888-894.

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November 2019: Fostering the Development of Master Adaptive Learners: A Conceptual Model to Guide Skill Acquisition in Medical Education"

November’s introduces the conceptual framework of Master Adaptive Learners used by medical educators to develop “adaptive expertise” in trainees. Adaptive expertise is described as a way to balance effortful learning, innovative problem solving, and efficient routine expertise. It is based on the concept that learning and innovation are spurred by challenges in practice.

Highlights include:

  • Preparation for future learning, or PFL, is essential for effectively learning in practice and combines effective use of resources, the ability to learn new information, and the creation of new procedures in support of problem solving in practice.
  • PFL allows practitioners to access prior knowledge in the development of innovative problem solving.
  • Undergraduate medical training must prepare future clinicians with the skills and processes necessary to foster effective workplace learning.

Cutrer, W.B., Miller, B., Pusic, M.V., Mejicano, G., Mangrulkar, R.S., Gruppen, L.D., Hawkins, R.E., Skochelak, S.E., and Moore, D.E. (2017). Fostering the development of master adaptive learners: A conceptual model to guide skill acquisition in medical education. Academic Medicine, 92(1), 70-75.

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October 2019:  "Learning to Learn: A Qualitative Study to Uncover Strategies Used by Master Adaptive  Learners in the Planning of Learning"

October’s article discusses Master Adaptive Learners, a conceptual framework used by medical educators to develop “adaptive expertise” in trainees. The authors found that the Master Adaptive Learners, or MALs, they studied in residency were intrinsically motivated by a drive to provide quality care for their patients rather than being motivated by external sources such as feedback or assessment. 

Highlights include:

  • The authors propose the “brick wall” concept, in which a resident will continue to work through the details of a case until they consciously realize they don’t know what to do next and begin to engage in intense self-reflection. 
  • Intentionally seeking feedback from multiple members of the healthcare team, including ancillary staff and trainees junior to them in the hierarchy, was a knowledge gap identification skill residents became more comfortable with over time. 
  • Study participants almost universally responded “no” when asked whether they received formal training on how to learn.
  • Participants reported that relying on workplace learning alone resulted in superficial learning, with deep learning requiring additional effort and study during personal time. 
  • Discussions with learners about “trial and error” and “productive struggle” may aid them in viewing such experiences as formative and better support development of resilience and adaptive expertise. 
  • The authors found that MALs in their study did not set short-term learning goals. Rather, they triaged the learning opportunities available to them in the clinical setting, suggesting a significant influence of immediacy of learning needs. 
  • “Intentional adaptation” should be encouraged during the transition from medical school to residency, with trainees being aware that struggles will take time and iterative development to overcome. 

Read "Learning to Learn: A Qualitative Study to Uncover Strategies Used by Master Adaptive Learners in the Planning of Learning"

September 2019: "Pedagogical Validity: The Key to Understanding Different Forms of 'Good' Teaching"

September’s article discusses ‘pedagogical validity,’ a combination of skills, goals, and values held by an educator. The authors assert that meaningful reflection and improvement of educational skills require an understanding of one’s pedagogical validity and describe four types of pedagogical validity instructors can use to define their understanding of ‘good’ teaching.

Highlights include:

  • Limiting the definition of ‘good teaching’ to a toolbox of pedagogical skills is flawed.
  • Assessing good teaching requires an understanding of the values and assumptions that influence teaching goals. 
  • Intellectual validity seeks to explain core concepts and expand learners’ mastery of content into the ability to think and reason through conditions of uncertainty. This is the most commonly used form of pedagogical validity in medical training. 
  • Relational validity views learning as the product of a relationship between the educator and learner, in which learners seek explanations and role modeling from their educators. Relational validity is particularly important in the context of giving and receiving feedback, a process requiring trust and respect. 
  • Moral validity involves making judgements and decisions in complex environments in which rules and guidelines are insufficient to address situations. Moral validity requires educators to not only role model behavior but also articulate the reasons for thinking and acting in certain ways. 
  • Cultural validity relies on awareness of how values and norms influence the way we view and think about the world around us. Teaching is a role that is culturally defined, requiring us to both enculturate learners and foster critical reflection on the culture(s) involved in learning and practicing in a healthcare environment.  
Pratt, D.D., Schrewe, B., & Pusic, M.V. (2019, June). Pedagogical validity: The key to understanding different forms of ‘good’ teaching. Medical Teacher, 41(6), 638-640.

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August 2019: "Defining Trainee Competence: Value is in the Eye of the Stakeholder"

August’s article is an editorial emphasizing the need to carefully define competence for developing and implementing assessment programs. The author asserts there are risks and limitations to applying stakeholder theory, a business framework, to educational assessment in the training of physicians. She proposes involving multiple stakeholders in the design and development of workplace-based assessment programs to better understand stakeholder values and what competence really means in our environment.

Highlights include:

  • We may be rushing into developing assessment programs based on a construct we don’t fully understand (competence).
  • Our collective values in medical education shape trainee characteristics.
  • Programs of assessment should be inclusive of different stakeholders and their values.

Yarris, L.M (2019, June). Defining trainee competence: Value is in the eye of the stakeholder. Academic Medicine, 94(6), 760-762.

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May 2019: "Trust as a Scaffold for Competency-Based Medical Education"

May's article is an editorial and comment on trust in competency-based medical education, or CBME. The authors assert that trust is paramount in CBME and underpins the entire medical education system. Trusting relationships are essential between learner and supervisor, trainees and training programs, and training programs and society.

Highlights include:

  • Entrustable Professional Activities, or EPAs, provide a shared model for the desired outcomes of our educational efforts. 
  • We are entering a period of inquiry surrounding CBME, focusing on relationships that encompass the medical education system and emphasize the importance of trust.
  • In CBME, feedback is essential to help learners understand their development and identify areas for growth.
  • A productive feedback process relies on trusting relationships.
  • Building an effective CBME system is dependent on attention to relationship development and may best be designed with longitudinal, continuity experiences.

Young, E., and Elnicki, D.M. (2019, April). Trust as a scaffold for competency-based medical education. J Gen Intern Med, 34(5), 647-8. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-019-04927-6


April 2019: "Psychology and Learning: The Role of the Clinical Learning Environment"

April's article discusses the psychological environment and its influence on learning. The authors emphasize the importance of creating a safe environment in which trainees can learn. They recommend seven basic strategies: embrace learning as a core value, utilize the clinical care system as an education-rich environment, develop individual-level skills to optimize the learning process, incorporate rituals and rewards, establish a just culture, remove competing factors, and build communities of practice. 

Highlights include:

  • Cognitive Load Theory highlights three components that contribute to the formation of working memory: intrinsic load, extrinsic load, and germane load.
  • Optimal learning experiences occur at an ideal intrinsic load (not too simple or complex) while minimizing extrinsic load (distractions) and facilitating the learner's use of germane load (active processing) to incorporate their learning into working memory.
  • Clinical preceptors are essential to promoting learner self-efficacy, or their ability to operate with increasing autonomy.
  • Learners become empowered in a psychologically safe environment that allows them to speak without fear of consequences, exploring new theories and testing assumptions.

Caverzagie, K.J., Goldenberg, M.G., Hall, J.M. (2019, February). Psychology and learning: The role of the clinical learning environment. Medical Teacher. DOI: 10.10080/0142159X.2019.1567910 


March 2019: Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match: Is There a Better Way?

March’s article is a letter from the editor of Academic Medicine on the Match process. The author asserts that the current Match process is expensive, inefficient, and encourages excessive focus on USMLE examination scores, making it an overall unfair system. The National Resident Matching Program, or NRMP, was founded in 1952 to address problems in the residency selection process and make the system “fair, efficient, transparent, and reliable (1).” However, many of the problems the Match was created to solve have resurfaced in recent years, leading to a “system with perverse outcomes (1).”

Highlights include:

  • USMLE Step 1 scores have been increasingly used as an initial screen for the ever-growing number of residency program applicants.
  • Medical students have increasingly focused their learning on preparatory materials for Step 1 rather than other important curricular activities, undermining the medical school curriculum and ceding medical education authority to commercial resources.
  • A range of suggestions to improve the process exist, including, but not limited to, improving the information provided by medical schools to residency programs and realigning the Step 1 exam to reflect competencies of interest to program directors.
  • Fixing the Match will require medical educators to ask difficult questions about the process and desired outcomes.
1. Sklar, D.P. (2019, March). Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match: Is there a better way? Academic Medicine, 94(3), 295-297. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002553

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February 2019: "Improving Trust Between Learners and Teachers in Medicine"

February’s article focuses on the trust relationship between teachers and learners.

Highlights include:

  • Without trust in the teacher-learner relationship, learners may reject or resist information and teachers may be unlikely to share in patient care responsibilities.
  • Teachers are increasingly called to assess competence while lacking control over the learning environment or a longitudinal relationship with the learner.
  • Learning is based on exploring, adjusting, and improving based on feedback.
  • Negotiating the power imbalance between teachers and learners is critical for development of a relationship that fosters trust.
  • Commitment to a healthy working environment is important in creating a trusting relationship between teachers and learners.
  • Social relationships between teachers and learners should be avoided during the time of active supervision.

Abruzzo, D., Skalr, D.P., and McMahon, G.T. (2019, February). Improving trust between learners and teachers in medicine. Academic Medicine, 94(2), 147-150. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002514

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January 2019: "Choosing Our Own Pathway to Competency-Based Undergraduate Medical Education"

January’s article focuses on competency-based medical education (CBME) and the determination of competency based on assessment of entrustable professional activities (EPAs). The authors assert that three major decisions are required to transition to CBME: defining the terminology to be used to describe constructs being evaluated, deciding which rating tools and raters to include in the assessment program, and determining how to make promotion decisions based on longitudinal EPA data.

Highlights include:

  • Changing to a competency-based model in undergraduate medical education will likely meet with resistance and cynicism.
  • We should not be threatened by the desire for a set level of competency, as this is meant to be a minimum requirement for entering post-graduate training.
  • Programs can maintain some autonomy on deciding elements of CBME to incorporate into their own unique programs.
  • UME programs are already evaluating individual behaviors within each of the defined EPAs, which means the task at hand is mapping EPAs to existing activities.
  • A focus on preparing students for entering residency shifts focus from successful completion of individual clerkships to one of overall competency, requiring a change in how we collect and analyze performance data.

Veale, P., Busche, K., Touchie, C., Coderre, S., and McLaughlin, K. (2019, January). Choosing our own pathway to competency-based undergraduate medical education. Academic Medicine, 94(1), 25-30. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002410

Read "Choosing Our Own Pathway to Competency-Based Undergraduate Medical Education"

December 2018: "Addressing Student Burnout: What Medical Schools Can Learn From Business Schools"
December’s article shares the authors’ perspectives on how business schools provide inspiration for improving medical school curricula. The authors assert that focusing medical student activities on completing routine tasks obscures opportunities for intellectual creativity, and lack of effective career counseling denies students the opportunity to pursue meaningful career pathways. 

Suggestions include:
  • Provide opportunities for creativity and problem solving
  • Increase resilience training
  • Offer robust career counseling
Pathipati, A.S., and Cassel, C.K (2018, November). Addressing student burnout: What medical schools can learn from business schools. Academic Medicine, 93(11), 1607-1609. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002215

Read "Addressing Student Burnout: What Medical Schools Can Learn From Business Schools"

October 2018: "Twelve Tips for Clinicians Dealing with Uncertainty When Assessing Learners"

October’s article shares the authors’ recommendations for how to deal with uncertainty when assessing learners in the clinical setting.

Tips include:

  • Be learner-centered to understand the learner’s context and address their needs and concerns.
  • Use clear communication to understand the learner’s values and concerns in the face of uncertainty.
  • Engage in self-reflection to stay attuned to your own and the learner’s emotional reactions to the situation at hand.
  • Seek input from your colleagues.
  • Avoid premature closure on your assessment.
  • Remember that every assessment opportunity does not have to end in a final judgement.

Scott, I., Gingerich, A., and Eva, K.W. (2018, October). Twelve tips for clinicians dealing with uncertainty when assessing learners. Medical Teacher, DOI: 10.1080/0142159X.2018.1494381

Read "Twelve tips for clinicians dealing with uncertainty when assessing learners"

September 2018: "Anticipating and Training the Physician of the Future"

September’s article shares the author’s perspective on the importance of teaching caring in medical profession, especially in an age of rapid technological advancement.

Highlights include:

  • While knowledge is more abundant and easier to access, the ability for a physician to retain and process all the information available is limited.
  • Technological advancements provide opportunities for enhancing medical care but are incapable of replacing the humanistic art of medical practice.
  • Most medical school curriculums devote a lot of time and attention to rote memorization and data analysis, skills that may be less relevant in the growing age of artificial intelligence.

Johnston, S.C. (2018, August). Anticipating and training the physician of the future: The importance of caring in an age of artificial intelligence. Academic Medicine, 93(8), 1105-1106.

Read "Anticipating and Training the Physician of the Future"

July 2018: "Twelve Tips for Creating an Academic Teaching Portfolio"

July’s article discusses how to approach creating an academic teaching portfolio. The authors share twelve tips for organizing and reporting your teaching activities. 

Tips include:

  • Prepare in advance to allow yourself time to collect, collate, and reflect
  • Review your CV to ensure it is updated
  • Establish a “shoebox” to collect your information
  • Collect evidence of the quality of your teaching
  • Participate in peer review of your teaching
  • Provide mentorship 
  • Solicit letters of support
  • Demonstrate evidence of scholarship
  • Think about your goals and objectives
  • Write down your educational philosophy
  • Document your professional development
  • Have an expert review your portfolio prior to submitting it
Little-Weinert, K., and Mazziotti, M. (2018). Twelve tips for creating an academic teaching portfolio. Medical Teacher, 40(1), 26-30. 

Read "Twelve Tips for Creating an Academic Teaching Portfolio"

June 2018: "What to Do About Those Negative Comments on Course Evaluations"

June’s article discusses how to respond to negative comments on course evaluations. The author discusses personal reactions to negative student comments and suggests ways to avoid over-reacting.

Suggestions include:

  • Step back
  • Look again later
  • Decide what you’re going to do
  • Talk to a trusted colleague
  • Talk to a few students
  • Recognize that you are not alone
  • What to Do About Those Negative Comments on Course Evaluations

Weimer, M. (2018, May 30). What to do about those negative comments on course evaluations. Faculty Focus, Teaching Professor Blog.

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May 2018: "When I say ... resilience"

May’s article defines the term “resilience” in the medical education context and discusses why resilience training is important to our learners. The authors discuss challenges healthcare learners face in a fast-paced, dynamic practice environment and the consequences of burnout.

Insights include:

  • Protection against burnout requires development and promotion of interventions to foster resilience amongst trainees.
  • Individual interventions are unlikely to be effective on their own in addressing the complex issue of resiliency and burnout.
  • Prevention of burnout calls for defining resilience in the context of overcoming adversity rather than as an intrinsic personal attribute.

Teodorczuk, A., Thomson, R., Chan, K., and Rogers, G.D. (2017). When I say…resilience. Medical Education, 51(12): 1206-1208.   

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February 2018: "Criterion-Based Assessment in a Norm-Based World: How Can We Move Past Grades?"

February’s article discusses opportunities and challenges with transitioning to competency-based assessment and grading in undergraduate medical education (UME). The authors discuss progress made in graduate medical education with development and implementation of competencies and milestones.

Insights include:

  • UME struggles with transitioning to competency-based medical education due to a continued reliance on grades.
  • Reliance on proxy assessments rather than direct observation of learners continues to be problematic in UME.
  • Use of norm-based criteria in the residency application process places pressure to provide this type of data to programs.
  • Successful implementation of competency-based assessment will require consensus between UME and graduate medical education. 

Pereira, A.G., Woods, M., Olson, A.P.J., van den Hoogenhof. S., Duffy, B.L., and Englander, R (2017). Criterion-based assessment in a norm-based world: Can we move past grades? Academic Medicine. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001939.  

January 2018: Relationships between Academic and Community Physicians

January’s article of the month shares one physician’s thoughts on the relationships between academic and community physicians. The author discusses medical schools’ increased reliance on community physicians to teach students and residents and suggests ways to enhance these relationships.

Insights include:

  • Failure for academic and community physicians to work together could have serious consequences for medical education.
  • Community physicians need access to high-quality, evidence-based training on teaching.
  • Mutual respect and feedback are critical to building successful relationships between “town” and “gown” physicians.

Gundersen, E. (2017, October 10). The accidental academic: Bridging the gap between town and gown [Web log post]. Harvard Macy Institute. Retrieved January 26, 2018, from The Accidental Academic: Bridging the Gap between Town and Gown

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December 2017: "Promoting Deep Learning"

December's article of the month focuses on deep learning and approaches to encourage it in coursework. Deep learning results in overall understanding of a concept, whereas surface learning focuses on rote memorization of information. Promoting deep learning means having students do something with the information, not just requiring them to remember it. 

Highlights of the article include:

  • Deep learning results in the ability to not only understand information but transfer that knowledge to new and different situations. 
  • Cooperative learning experiences play a key role in deep learning, as interaction is a key characteristic. 
  • Efforts for deep learning should focus on key knowledge and skills essential for students to advance to the next course or practice in their chosen discipline. 
  • Deep learning is fostered through mindful sequencing of activities designed to promote thoughtful processing of and interaction with the course material.

Millis, B.J. (n.d.) Promoting Deep Learning: IDEA Paper #47. Retrieved December 18, 2017, from Promoting Deep Learning  

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November 2017: "Interprofessional Education - a foundation for a new approach to health care"

November's article of the month focuses on interprofessional education (IPE) and its role in the future of healthcare. The authors discuss reasons for engaging in IPE, various approaches to incorporating it into health care curriculum, and IPE's potential to transform health care delivery in the future.

Highlights include:

  • Longitudinal, patient-centered IPE experiences have the potential to increase students' knowledge and awareness of complex patient needs. 
  • IPE is rooted in the patient safety movement, an effort to improve multidisciplinary teamwork and communication.
  • IPE as a field is still evolving, with research to be done on core concepts and curriculum integration.
  • When done well, IPE has the power to develop health care teams better able to handle uncertainty and complexity. 
  • With movement toward value-based payment models in health care, the ability for providers to focus their problem solving in an integrated manner becomes increasingly important.

Dow, A., and Thibault, G. (2017, August 31) Interprofessional education - A foundation for a new approach to health care. N Engl J Med, 377(9), 803-805. 

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October 2017: "Active Learning Strategies in Face-to-Face Courses"

October's article of the month focuses on active learning in the face-to-face classroom. The author discusses approaches to active learning and the research that supports adoption of active learning methods.

Highlights include:

  • Metacognition, or awareness of one's own thought processes, is central to learning. 
  • Educators are responsible for designing learning experiences that will engage students.
  • Educators should continually reinforce the value of active learning approaches, clarifying their expectations and emphasizing that the approaches will be reflected in graded activities (tests, quizzes, assignments). 
  • Educators should practice "transparent teaching," in which their methods and motives for active learning approaches are shared with the learners. 
  • Educators should create a supportive classroom climate to foster active student participation. 

Millis, B.J. (n.d.) Active learning strategies in face-to-face courses. IDEA Paper #53. Retrieved from Active Learning Strategies in Face-to-Face Courses

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September 2017: No More Lectures?

September’s article of the month shares two medical educators’ perspectives on efforts to move away from traditional lecture-based courses. The authors discuss approaches to education and the need to prepare medical students for future practice.

Highlights include:

  • Content-heavy slides may be an efficient way to teach but are likely an ineffective way to learn.
  • Learning can be facilitated by the instructor but must be driven by the student.
  • Students aren’t learning when they are unengaged.
  • Questioning, particularly using “why” and “how” questions, facilitates the transfer of knowledge.
  • We should aim for a culture of continuous quality improvement in medical education, just as we do with clinical practice.

Schwartzstein, R.M., & Roberts, D.H. (2017, August 17). Saying goodbye to lectures in medical school – Paradigm shift or passing fad? N Engl J Med, 377: 605-607. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1706474

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August 2017: Struggles with Teaching

August’s article of the month shares a medical educator’s experiences with trying to teach in a time-constrained environment. The author discusses struggling to engage residents in active learning in the face of competing demands.

Insights include:

  • Time constraints and clinical demands may divert attention away from formal teaching.
  • Tension exists between fostering active learning and providing information to aid in the passage of high-stakes exams.
  • Lack of objectives and related assessment may confuse the learning environment.
  • Faculty development can help address the need for continual education of clinical preceptors.

Sklar, D.P. (2015). Just because I am teaching doesn’t mean they are learning: Improving our teaching for a new generation of learners. Academic Medicine, 92(8): 1061-1063. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001808

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