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PHM15: Incorporating Active Learning Strategies into Your Teaching


Presenters: Alison Holmes, MD, MPH; Michele Long, MD; Carrie Rossbach, MD; Jennifer Rosenthal, MD

Being a hospitalist naturally lends itself to participating in education. Whether teaching on the wards at the bedside, giving didactic lectures in the classroom, or divulging informal clinical pearls throughout the day, the hospitalists’ role is entrenched in teaching. And while hospitalists make every attempt to stay current on the latest medical and clinical information, much of their teaching toolbox remains outdated.

Active learning is not a new concept, but is becoming more and more of a hot topic in the educational field. In the 1900s, medical education had become so cumbersome that the educators began bringing the students into the laboratory setting to more actively engage them. By the 1950s, constructivism brought the idea that learners obtain knowledge best by using real experiences with real subject matter and using interaction. In the 1970s, Malcolm Knowles revolutionized education for the adult by bringing forth the idea of andragogy.

However, despite these advances, it wasn’t until the 1990s that active learning began being applied to the medical community. Despite numerous studies validating the adult learning principles in both the medical school and residency settings, there were numerous barriers that prevented active learning from being integrated into the curricula.

Formal medical lectures tend to be geared to large audiences making active learning unwieldy. Residents are often under time constraints and are fatigued, making them passive learners by default. Faculty members commonly find transforming large volumes of information into an active process a daunting task.

The presenters provided four different active learning applications that could be used in virtually any setting with any source material.

  • Case Based Discussions allow the transformation of a passive power point into an interactive session with leading questions and giving information in a “morning report” style.
  • Quizzes promote pre-reading and then immediate feedback of their knowledge gaps, often providing increased learner satisfaction by showing improvement in retaking the quiz at the end of the session.
  • Case Applications are exercises where groups apply content of reading to a challenging and sophisticated case, forcing them to move beyond their current knowledge and to test the boundaries of their logical applications.
  • Role Playing can allow a dramatic, live presentation of a case and re-enact in live time a clinical scenario.

The session then broke into individual small groups and developed a lecture based on one of the four modalities. Every group successfully produced an interesting, active learning lecture in just 15 minutes. This demonstrated that with minimal effort and time, such applications can be used to prepare an active learning session that would encompass as little as ten minutes or as much as an hour. By thoughtfully considering these techniques and applying them to old, worn out lectures, the material can be easily brought to life, enhancing the educational experience.

Travis W. Crook, MD, FAAP

Assistant Professor, Pediatrics

Assistant Pediatric Clerkship Director

Division of Hospitalist Medicine

Department of Pediatrics

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt

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