Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Curricular changes on the horizon?

I'm sure the institution I work at is not alone.  The last major curricular upheaval at our school about 15-20 years ago.  Think about the changes which have taken place in medical science, education technology, and clinical practice over that time span.  In 1990, I was just starting college, and had never had an email account.  I did my senior thesis paper to get my undergraduate biology degree by looking up articles at the University of Minnesota medical school library by using the Index Medicus followed searching through the bowels of the library hoping I had correctly copied down the volume and issue number of the journal correctly.  When I saw a doctor, they wrote things down by hand into a chart that consisted of a manila folder.  My computer still had floppy disks, and I was only semi-aware of this thing called the internet.  This is the setting framing the genesis of the current curriculum at our medical school.  At that time most lecturers still carried their presentations in big boxed of 35 mm slide carousels.  A bit has changed since then.

Hence our school is primed for change.  And, as I said before, I don't think we're alone.  Many medical schools have already started the process or are thinking about starting a major reform.  There is great talk about bringing clinical application even more prominently into the first two years of the curriculum, and at the same time as the basic science concepts are being made more overt in the third and forth years.  Teaching and instructional styles are changing with the trend to relying even less on the formal lecture, and more on group or individual problem solving.  There is also talk of more individualization of marking progress from one level to the next with the current concept of time being the major driving factor between a junior and a senior medical student (ie marked by number or years) to a view that students must achieve benchmarks and outcomes to be advanced.  There is a lot of talk about whether to integrate the clinical coursework so the students are learning through a patient's experience moving from one specialist to the next in place of isolated assignments to one department at a time.  As with most curricular reform, there's not a lot of data out there at present for the new way of doing things, and people are feeling their way along.

Hence this blog post.  Our basic science sub-committee has been faced with a new building which will be open in a few years.  The new building is going to have learning studio style lecture halls.  The chair of the committee has asked those of us on the committee to find out what other schools have already done or are thinking about doing in the realm of curricular reform.  Please post here about your school's experience or links to other blogs/articles about your school's experience so we can all learn from each other.


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