When we were applying to medical school, we imagined that our early months would involve a lot of time taking notes in lecture and studying material from PowerPoint slides or text books. But instead, we spend our days going through real patient cases with small groups of students and faculty. While learning about the circulatory system, we learned how to listen for heart sounds with standardized patients. Most weeks we have team-based learning sessions where we are asked to debate clinical scenarios using the information we have learned with our classmates.
On Thursdays at noon, twenty-five first year medical students pile into a small conference room not for a class, but for cookies, milk, and feedback. For the next hour, we make suggestions to our professor for how to make quizzes a useful learning tool and request more small group discussions to review material. Last week, our professor added an opportunity to discuss immunology with our peers and teaching fellows within a day of hearing our feedback.
The Larner College of Medicine community is committed to active learning, an approach that consists of students preparing for class sessions beforehand, then actively participating using what was already learned, making sure to close the gaps in their knowledge during the session. The goal is for students to fully utilize time in class and wrestle with the material in real time, building on what they already know and committing it to memory more effectively. Since the college has committed to becoming lecture-free in the near future, we have a prime opportunity to help shape how medical education looks for years to come.
Larner College of Medicine is progressive in its dedication to student feedback and forming its curriculum around how students learn. Faculty want to know what students think about their courses. As students, we’re encouraged to give input to shape how we want to learn every day and what works best for us. The Student Education Group is a unique opportunity for students to become even more involved in improving the curriculum. We act as liaisons to faculty by bringing them formal and informal feedback from students throughout their course.
We joined the Student Education Group for the opportunity to be part of the exciting shift to active learning. As part of this group, we get to build close relationships with the faculty, staff, and students that make up our community. At our Student Education Group meeting each month, faculty share their latest thinking on how to best teach medical students. We provide feedback on their ideas and discuss how we can continue to improve the student experience, leading projects and initiatives to accomplish those ideas.
This year, the Student Education Group is collecting data on how much time students need to prepare for each active learning session so that we can design a schedule that allows students enough time to prepare for class and fully engage in active learning activities. We are also starting a Town Hall series to invite students to share their thoughts on how their medical education could be even better and keep them updated on what we are currently working on. At the end of each course, students from the group present the final course review data to a faculty committee. Faculty and students collaboratively come up with plans to integrate more practice questions into a course or make preparatory videos more concise. Creating a medical school that engages students in these ways instead of delivering lectures isn’t easy, but as students and members of the Student Education Group, we are given the opportunity to lead the change.