It is time to raise the value of teaching in health sciences education, creating space and time for genuine teaching and reflection, said Dr. Erik Driessen during a recent visit to McGill University.
Dr. Driessen is the editor of Perspectives on Medical Education, a Professor in Medical Education and Chair of the Department of Educational Development and Research in the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at Maastricht University.
Dr. Driessen’s public presentation was part of the recently renamed Health Sciences Education Rounds series co-hosted by the Faculty Development Office and the new Institute of Health Sciences Education.
It was to a full auditorium in the McIntyre Building that Dr. Driessen delivered the main public lecture of his visit, calling on leaders to shape the future of health sciences education with teachers playing a central role.
Industrializing health sciences education
Dr. Driessen wove personal stories, politics and art together to walk the audience through the evolution of health sciences teaching and education from the 1990s to the present day.
The turn toward ahas come to the detriment of effective teaching and learning, he said, with assessment driving learning and an economistic turn that risks growing disconnected from humanism and genuine learning. Reflection is squeezed out in this economistic model, coupled with an intense service-oriented environment with high clinical demands.
“We have industrialised health care education,” said Dr. Driessen. “This has the effect that we have disconnected the teacher from the learner and also teachers from each other. It would be good to reconnect teachers and learners and teachers with each other.”
McGill’s own Physician Apprenticeship program is one beautiful example of how this can be done, he said. A four-year medicine course, the Physician Apprenticeship element connects students with a group of practicing physicians and faculty members known as the Osler Fellows. Unique to McGill, the program focuses on the dual role of the physician as healer and professional and explores issues like professionalism and the need to promote a patient-centered approach to learning.
“It’s important that we create an environment and culture in which good teaching is recognised,” said Dr. Driessen. “Key for good clinical teaching is a trusting relationship between learner and teacher, and this is often not the case in our current clinical education because learners and teachers hardly know each other.”
Toward a teaching renaissance
Teaching and learning must undergo a renaissance, Dr. Driessen argued, calling for a future in which teachers are raised up as the giants they are.
“For good clinical teaching, we need to change the system and reconnect our teachers with our learners and, above all, we should raise our teachers onto our shoulders,” he said.
Broad brushstrokes of this vision include decoupling observation from patient care and assessment, using routine situations for teaching, creating explicit time for teaching, fostering longitudinal teacher-learner relationships and fostering communities and teams for collaborative learning and reflection.
At an Institute of Health Sciences Education members meeting earlier in his visit, Dr. Driessen facilitated a rich conversation about the importance of reflection. He also facilitated a workshop with Osler Fellows, sharing insights into mentoring strategies to support student learning through reflective conversation.
“Reflection is essential to learn from your mistakes instead of learning your mistakes,” Dr. Driessen said. “It also is important to learn more about yourself.”
He spoke highly of his visit and plans to bring new insights home.
“I loved my visit to McGill,” Dr. Driessen said of his time here. “Although Maastricht and Montreal are on two different continents, I saw many commonalities. We both have strong health care education groups that have proved to be sustainable and combine educational development with research.”
The overriding theme of Dr. Driessen’s visit was a deep sense of humanism that underpins health sciences education. A fan of Canadian literature and music, including Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, and a lover of the culinary arts, Dr. Driessen shared his appreciation for life and the pursuit of excellence in teaching and research.
June 13 2019