Med School Teaching Innovations

Until recent years, the whole concept of medical school has remained largely unchanged – 2 years of basic science and 2 years of clinical practice with many teachers working off the experiential education model of “see one, do one, teach one.” But advances in education theory and the shifting nature of the medical profession have prompted medical schools to re-evaluate the standard educational program in order to achieve better learning outcomes and to reflect the experience of being a doctor in the real world. Here are some things they are trying:


Flipping the classroom

In a typical course, students go to class, sit through a few hours of lectures and then go home to do coursework such as solving practice problems or writing papers on their own time. In the “flipped” classroom, students listen to or watch lectures on their own time, via video clips online or podcasts, before attending class. This allows classroom time to be spent tackling practice problems through group work, guided discussions or debates. Research has shown that this flipped system results in “significant learning gains when compared to traditional instruction.” One theory is that after watching lectures at home, students can immediately apply what they’ve learned the night before, which increases uptake and processing of the desired skills. It’s also a chance for professors to provide feedback on any questions or misconceptions about the coursework, rather than waiting until the next quiz or exam. This creates a much more active classroom experience as opposed to a passive lecture situation.



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Less Memorization

Medicals schools and teachers realize that these days, students have quick access to a wealth of information through the internet right there on a smartphone. This means that spending hours on rote memorization isn’t really the best use of time when it comes to educational outcomes. Additionally, medical research is moving so quickly that “the facts you memorize today might not be relevant five years from now,” according to NYU’s Dr. Marc Triola, associate dean for educational informatics, as quoted in WSJ.  With many essential apps for med school students, it’s no longer necessary for students to memorize lists of drugs, what they do and how they interact.



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Innovative Collaborations

Although many areas of medicine have become intensely specialized, medical schools are trying to foster cross-discipline collaborations to help students learn what it’s like to care for patients while being responsible for coordination of care across specialties, along with administrative and reporting requirements, including awareness of medical billing and costs. The New York University School of Medicine matches first-year med students with NYU nursing students who work together on patient simulations. The Harvard Medical School Cambridge Integrated Clerkship replaces block rotations with a six-month period where students follow a set of patients through their full medical treatment program, from hospitalization, to discharge, including home visits. Also at NYU, a required course gives students access to New York State databases that track hospital admissions and charges throughout the state, where they tackle analysis of care and pricing.


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Laurie Breen

Laurie Breen is a freelance writer well-versed in research communications and grant writing. She received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Smith College and has worked previously at the University of Queensland's Centre for Clinical Research in Brisbane, Australia. Her favorite conversational topic is "antibiotic-resistant bacteria," making her a big hit at parties.