2013 GSI Symposium Breakout Session 4: Student Engagement in Curriculum Development

A Report from the Trenches

We’re continuing with our reports from the JHU Gateway Sciences Initiative (GSI) 2nd Annual Symposium on Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the Sciences.  Next up is “Student Engagement in Curriculum Development: School of Medicine Medical Education Concentration” presented by Sarah Clever, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and her students Mark Fisher JHSoM ’14, Sara Fuhrhop, JHSoM ’14, Nikhil Jiwrajka, JHSoM ’15, and Eric Sankey, JHSoM ’15.

Please note that links to examples and explanations in the text below were added by CER staff and were not included in the breakout session presentation.

Dr. Clever identified physicians as having distinct roles as teachers as they interact with their peers, trainees, and patients. As well, graduates from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (JHSoM) often pursue careers in academic medicine. Specific training in medical education significantly enhances physicians’ skills as educators.

Based on an online needs assessment survey she conducted of 306 JHSoM students in June 2011 (86 responded), Dr. Clever felt that there was substantial student interest in the implementation of a medical education track including didactic teaching in medical education, hands-on curriculum design with a faculty mentor and evaluation of that curriculum, as well as presentation at a national meeting and or scholarly publication.

Nationally, clinician-educator tracks for residents and faculty are growing in popularity, but Student-as-Teacher programs for medical students are less common. The schools that have such programs include the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (Distinction in Medical Education), University of Rochester (Medical Education Pathway), University of Chicago (Medical Education Track), University of Texas at San Antonio (MD with Distinction in Medical Education Program), and Stanford (Foundation in Medical Education). These institutions provided inspiration in developing the JHSoM program, and the discussions with medical students from these institutions about the strengths and weaknesses of their programs were particularly helpful.

The JHSoM Medical Education Concentration (MEC) started with a pilot in the fall of 2011 (for JHSoM Class of 2014 students) and opened formally for application to JHSoM class of 2015 students in May (at JHU, student self- select into this option). There are 20 participants in the first year. The Medical Education Concentration students apply in the 2nd half of the first year.  The second year is spent in a fall seminar series and on developing a curriculum module.  This is done individually in conjunction with a faculty member. Year three, they implement and obtain feedback. In year four the module is implemented a second time.  By the end of the program, students will create an original teaching module in the clinical or preclinical curriculum; collaborate with a faculty mentor using evidence-supported curriculum development methods; and implement and evaluate their module and teaching performance. The overarching goal of the JHSoM program is to teach students critical curriculum design and teaching skills.

The fall seminar series is taught by JHU faculty and includes topics such as: adult learning theory, conducting a needs assessment, writing quality goals and objectives, choosing educational methods, technology in education, constructing an effective PowerPoint presentation, small group facilitation, eliciting, giving, and receiving feedback, and learner and curriculum evaluation methods.

Some of the pilot cohort teaching modules were:

  • Conducting a follow up visit with chronic disease patients in the Longitudinal Clerkship
  • Conducting a well-child visit with pediatric patients in the Longitudinal Clerkship
  • Developing oral presentation skills in the Longitudinal Clerkship
  • Incorporating inter-professional education modules into the Pediatrics Clerkship
  • Surgical skills education for first year medical students.

Refinements to the Medical Education Concentration in the second year have included some changes to the seminar series, integration with other SoM education initiatives, and improving MEC infrastructure (i.e., Blackboard components used for the MEC).

In the future, Dr. Clever hopes to develop a system to track students’ project progress, create a handbook for MEC leadership, work on pre-assessment for prospective participants, and to collaborate with similar programs at other institutions.

Dr. Clever’s presentation ended with these questions for discussion among the breakout session participants:

  1. How can student involvement in curriculum development benefit the Gateway Sciences?
  2. What are the implications of undergraduate student involvement in teaching and/or curriculum development for courses that are already well established?
  3. How can we better involve students in the learning process?

The discussion centered on transferring this experience to the Gateway Sciences Initiative.  Although participants did not feel that freshman and sophomore students would be able to effectively have a role in curriculum design, peer-teaching or developing focused instructional modules could help an upperclassman to gain a greater understanding of a concept or to understand its application to higher level courses.

The consensus was that these SoM medical education concentration students could be role models for pre-med students.  They also could provide insight to faculty teaching undergraduates about the skills needed in medical school (at least the JHU model).  Everyone agreed this was a session that showed how cross- University collaboration could benefit all involved.

For more on the development and implementation of the MEC program see Dr. Sarah Clever’s presentation for the Johns Hopkins Medicine Institute for Excellence in Education Grand Rounds, March 14, 2012: Learners to Educators: Development  and Implementation of a Medical Education Curriculum [JHED ID required].

Many thanks to Melissa West for providing The Innovative Instructor with the notes she took during this session.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Dr. Sarah Clever