|*Note - photo is archived, and not from the lecture mentioned|
I accept part of this is on me as a first-time course director. There were somethings in the schedule which we purposefully changed in terms of timing to try to improve the flow of the course. Of course, we have had the typical issues of lecturer availability changing up the timing of a session here or there. But, some weeks we just kept as it was, as they worked last year. This is one of those weeks. I didn't even really revert my mind back to med student mode to realize that putting something as complex as the cerebellar anatomy the day before the test was a bad idea. It was a bad idea, as basic educational literature supports the idea that concepts are retained more if they are repeated and if they are applied. We really didn't have time to do either with the cerebellum. So, next year we will rectify that problem. This year, the schedule has been set for several months, and there's not much room now to swap things around.
My reason for this post isn't about whether this was an ill-fated lecture or not, it is more about the student reaction to the lecture. I was in the back of the room as the lecture ended, and the reaction generally from those that sat in the entire auditorium was best described as anger and frustration. Frustration I can understand. I can understand that there was a lot of information presented and that this may have been perceived as not being 'fair'. However, there was also an underpinning of anger that, although I understand where it comes from, I find a little troubling. I've seen on Twitter some posts by med students after a bad lecture where the venting becomes more of a personal attack on the lecturer themselves. That is where I think there is a bit of a problem. This also comes out in the narrative evaluations we receive from students for courses. There are plenty of comments which are truly helpful, and point out errors which can be corrected. Then, there are those that don't give much rationale for why the lecture was not good and how to improve it for the future, but they are just downright mean. I totally realize the the first and second year of medical school is a time of high pressure and stress. I also understand that processing all that information in the time required is a monumental task. I understand how a poorly organized talk can make things worse. I understand that medical students are paying a lot of money for this. But I also understand that as good as any educational program is, there are going to be times where you try something and it doesn't come off as planned. I also know for sure that my co-course director's intent was to provide more details to clarify the major points he was making. His intent was not to harm, but to help. I think the majority of lectures I went to in medical school, the lecturer honestly wanted to help the students learn about things they are passionate about. True it is not always presented with great oratory skills or organization, but I think the number of lecturers who truly despise students and purposefully are trying to mess them up is very small. So, all I'm saying is that part of professionalism we are trying to teach in the medical school curriculum should include how to give reasonable feedback to educators without being judgmental. Yes, the lecture was ill-timed, and changing slides on dense lecture the day before the test was ill-timed, and that feedback should be given. It's not OK in frustration to launch an all-out personal assault. Because, at the end of the day, most medical students still find a way to wade through those messes and learn what needs to be learned. It's not fun, but as I move forward in the 'life-long learning' cohort, most of the stuff I'm presented with is a huge disorganized pile of information some of which is contradictory, and I need to work it out myself as I have a regular test I take regularly in the exam room of my clinic. And also, the theory is that the course director's job is partly to take that reasoned feedback and create changes for next year to improve.