Faculty Learning and Teaching Forum

eimear faganI attended the 2nd FMS Learning and Teaching Forum on 2nd December 2015. As someone who hasn’t found their “pedagogic niche” it was very interesting to see what kind of research is happening in the faculty. It was quite nice to see these work in progress studies rather than the finished product as it made for some interesting discussion following each talk. I will not summarise all of the talks as I know a number of these are summarised in a previous ERDP newsletter but will talk through my highlights and the themes I felt ran through the session. One of the talks that I thoroughly enjoyed was that of the “Context café”, this is a very interesting idea that I would like to incorporate into my teaching.

Context café: Challenging the basic sciences ‘learn and forget’ culture

This idea was generated to try and combat the “why do I need to know this?” culture that is seen in the clinical sciences. The idea involves running a group style café in the first week of term. Each table has a facilitator and a number of students. The facilitator presents the students with a question and an outline of the modules of the dentistry course. The first group to the table has to choose which modules they think they will gain the necessary knowledge to answer the question posed. E.g. “You are completing oral surgery and your patient begins bleeding profusely. Where will you get the knowledge required to deal with this situation as a practising dentist?” This forces the students to think about what knowledge they will need to acquire in both the pre-clinical and clinical years of their dentistry degree. The students then rotate around all the different tables and by the end of the session should have figured out that they actually need all of the modules in order obtain enough knowledge to deal with that clinical scenario. This process should hopefully give the students the context to explain why they need to study certain content.

A number of the MBBS students complain of losing motivation in Phase 1 of our course (pre-clinical years). Their usual complaints include “not knowing why we need to know this stuff” and “I just want to skip to the clinical years”. The context café may be an ideal way to try and combat this issue.  

Common theme: Student use of technology

I think the use of technology by our students is a common theme that ran throughout the forum. This came up in a number of different instances, the first in using digital storytelling as a method to teach our medical students about core conditions they may not encounter in Medical School. A separate study investigated the use of social media by our students. Specifically, to look at the self-awareness of our students in relation to their social media use and the impact this could have on their concentration. This research really brings home the idea that although social media/technology can be used in effective ways to help students learn but in certain situations it can be detrimental to learning. Following the presentation of data on the reading habits of psychology students, there was some discussion as to what constituted “reading”. Would this include online resources, social media and other types of reading that deviate from physical text books? Even when we think we can assess something as simple as reading, technology needs to be considered!

Taken together, I think this shows how important technology is to our students now but also how important technology will become to our students. Assessing the role of technology in student learning is of the utmost importance. This applies to both our current students but also our prospective students. This is the subject of Dr Laura Delgaty’s project on “Investigating the digital capabilities and expectations of prospective students”. This study involved asking schoolgoing children about their experiences of technology in their learning. Initial data from this study has shown there are considerable differences in the opinions of these prospective students on their use of technology and their best learning environments. Specifically this difference in opinion seems to be dependent on their gender and socioeconomic background. I think this project will generate some very interesting data that we need to consider when planning our future teaching and when choosing if we will use technology to supplement that teaching.

Dr Eimear Fagan, School of Medical Education


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